Human Rights Watch issued a statement Monday slamming what it called the excessive use of force in the dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Squares on August 14, describing it as “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”
“The ongoing Human Rights Watch investigation indicates that the decision to use live ammunition on a large scale from the outset reflected a failure to observe basic international policing standards on use of lethal force, and was not justified by the disruptions caused by the demonstrations or the limited possession of arms by some protesters,” the statement said.
The international rights organization heavily criticized the authorities’ reluctance to provide safe exit to the protesters and the wounded, which was considered a flagrant violation of international standards for protests.
HRW also indicated that field research and interviews with medics and local rights organizations indicate that the death toll at Rabea alone reached 377, significantly higher than the 288 deaths reported by the Ministry of Health.
“With the death toll rising day by day, Egypt’s military rulers should urgently reverse recent police instructions to use live ammunition to protect state buildings, and use it only when strictly necessary to protect life,” HRW urged.
HRW did note that the Brotherhood protesters also committed acts of violence in the incident. The Ministry of Interior claimed that 43 of its personnel were killed during the waves of violence following the bloody dispersal.
“Accounts from witnesses and a review of video footage confirm that some gunfire was fired from the side of the protesters, in particular from around the Rabea Al-Adaweya Mosque,” HRW confirmed.
“For example, one resident said she saw at least three people with automatic rifles and hand guns at around 8:30 or 9:00 am shooting towards police at Youssef Abbas Street. Statements by witnesses interviewed by Human Rights, including international journalists, and personal observations by a Human Rights Watch researcher who was in the area during the break-up, indicate that the vast majority of protesters were not in possession of, let alone displaying or using firearms,” the report added.