Former Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said that everyone at fault during the bloody dispersal of the Rabea protest camp should stand trial. His remarks were made in an interview with privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper on Thursday to mark the massacre’s first anniversary.
It was Beblawi’s cabinet that made the decision to disperse the sit-ins, which led to the deaths of hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and has been hailed “a likely crime against humanity” by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
He added that his government had to choose between a bad or worse situation, as the continuation of the sit-ins represented a serious threat to security and citizens’ lives. He said that the cost of the dispersal was expected to be high, given the large numbers of protesters.
He also asserted that the government was keen to disperse the sit-ins peacefully.
“All the options were bad, especially as the government postponed the decision to disperse several times. In addition, the first victims of the dispersal were police officers not protesters, which proves that firing commenced from their side,” he asserted.
Beblawi said in previous interviews while he was in office that his “conscience was comfortable” with the way the sit-ins were dispersed.
He slammed the HRW report, describing it as biased because there were three dispersals of sit-ins, including Rabea, Nahda and Kerdasa. In the last two, he explained, the number of casualties was notably low, which should be considered and evaluated.
“The report was strange. If it were true that one side had full power and weaponry, which is the police in this case, the dispersal would have taken a few hours. But it took the police 10 hours, which suggests there was extreme and armed resistance. The report also neglected to mention that protesters fired at police forces from rooftops of buildings, which led to the deaths among the ranks of police forces,” he said.
During the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in, 45 days after it started, HRW found that between 817 and 1,000 protesters died in what they called, “the world’s largest killing of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.” HRW compared Rabea al-Adaweya’s dispersal to the Chinese government’s killing of 800 protesters in one day during the 1989 Tiananmen massacre as well as the 2005 Andijan massacre, in which Uzbek forces killed hundreds of protesters in a single day.
Prior warnings by the government were deemed insufficient by HRW, as they failed to indicate when the dispersal would take place. Many also reported not hearing them, and they didn’t give protesters enough time to exit the sit-ins, they reported. While the government has claimed that warnings were played for an hour and a half before security forces opened fire, witnesses said that live ammunition was fired minutes after the dispersal began and came from APCs, bulldozers, ground forces, and rooftop snipers already in place.
Protesters were besieged by security for most of the day, and attacks were launched from each of the main entrances to the square. Those trying to escape were also targeted by security forces, witnesses told HRW. Most of the deaths took place at the end of the 12-hour operation, as security forces encircled the remaining protesters near the field hospital, ordered doctors out, leaving corpses behind, and took control of the hospital. At this point, fires broke out, burning the field hospital and the mosque. HRW said evidence shows that the fires were deliberately started by security.
Beblawi concluded that events that ensued proved there were some “agents” who wanted to destroy the country by bombing busses, electricity stations, police trucks, and targeting personal and public property.