Fact-finding committee puts blame on Islamists for Rabea violence

The June 30 fact-finding committee issued its final report on Wednesday, concluding that the primary responsibility for the deaths that occurred during and after the violent dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in lay with Islamist leaders, not the government.

Leaders of anti-government protests had armed the crowds and refused to abide by the government’s calls for dispersal, the report added.

The June 30 committee, tasked with investigating the violence that followed the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi, was formed by interim President Adly Mansour late last year.

The report says that the police were justified in violently dispersing the protest, although it blames security forces for failing to target those carrying arms amongst the crowd, thereby increasing the casualties.

Unarmed participants in the sit-in are not absolved of all wrongdoing, though, with the report stating that they “insisted on remaining with the armed men and being used as human shields during the firing on the police and ignored calls for safe exit before and during the dispersal.”

The report also blames the government for allowing the sit-in to grow, as well as the decision to disperse it in a short time, which only heightened the human cost.

The Rabea sit-in started after the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi in July and lasted for three weeks before police and military forces violently dispersed it, causing hundreds of civilian deaths in what was one of the bloodiest days since the start of the Egyptian revolution in 2011. A smaller sit-in in Giza’s Al-Nahda Square was also dispersed the same day with similar violence.

The number of deaths has been unconfirmed but according to the committee’s report, 607 civilians and eight police officers died during the Rabea dispersal while 88 civilians and two police officers died at Nahda.

Interim President Adly Mansour formed the independent committee in December of last year tasking it with documenting the events of June 30 and what followed. The committee is headed by former international judge Fouad Abdel Moneim Riyad.

Beyond the events at Rabea, the report documents assaults on churches that occurred following the dispersal, which included the torching of 52 churches nationwide and attacks on 12 others.

When discussing nationwide terrorist attacks that have intensified in the last year, the committee said that it appreciated the gravity of the situation and the efforts of security forces to combat terrorism. However, the committee also called on the state to take human rights into consideration during counter-terror operations.

A crackdown on street-level activism and civil society has been linked to the war on terrorism by the government.

In the Sinai Peninsula, which has witnessed the most severe terror attacks and a series of ongoing military operations, the committee suggested compensating local residents who have suffered as a result of military operations and introducing a development plan alongside security measures.

The committee’s report meanwhile states that the student protests, which followed the June 30 demonstrations and left seven students dead, were not peaceful and that violent tactics have been planned and financed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The report also concludes that there has been no instance of torture in Egyptian jails since June 30, but that some detainees may have been abused at the time of their arrest, inside police stations or while being transferred to jail. The report also proposes that the use of detention pending investigations, which has stretched on for over a year for hundreds of detainees, should be kept to a minimum.

The committee has recommended amending the Protest Law, passed last year, which severely limits the right to free assembly, so that it corresponds with the 2014 Constitution.

In its final remarks, the report places the blame for last year’s violence on Islamist groups for ruling in an undemocratic manner, undermining legal institutions and making enemies out of the police, military and other institutions.

The report says that the Brotherhood chose the path of confrontation when it lost its popular backing. However, it adds, the transitional government and society at large were also responsible for the current situation for failing to live up to demands for reform raised in 2011.