• March 10, 2014
  • 26 minutes read

HRM’s Statement in Response to NCHR’s Rabaa Massacre Report

HRM’s Statement in Response to NCHR’s Rabaa Massacre Report

Human Rights Monitor (HRM) issued the following statement in response to the recent National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) report on the Rabaa slaughter, set to present facts countering NCHR findings:

General facts:

1. NCHR members were appointed by current Egyptian authorities following the coup of 3 July 2013. A large number of NCHR members had been removed from the NCHR following the 25 January 2011 Revolution, for being loyal to ousted Mubarak’s government.

2- The NCHR report was not based on evidences collected by the researchers available on the day, on the ground, nor testimonies from both sides and from neutral witnesses. The report was based on the Interior Ministry’s investigations, which should not be the case given the Interior Ministry is being questioned for the killing of thousands of people.

3- The NCHR did not look into hundreds of complaints by families of victims submitted to the Public Prosecutor and neglected the fact that cases of accusations against the protesters for resorting to armed resistance were not filed in any court and no verdicts were issued against those protesters.

4- Complaints of families of victims who were killed or injured were not investigated by the NCHR complaints department, which did not issue reports on its findings either.

5- The NCHR did not take into account other reports issued from reliable and trusted human rights organisations, which defeats the facts presented in the NCHR report.

6- The NCHR was not aware and did not seek to have the Interior Ministry’s plan of dispersal, although it is an official body entitled to have access to all documentations during the investigations process. The NCHR was not neutral in basing its report on the investigations of the Interior Ministry which is a party in this case.

7- The report was neither neutral nor factual. It included opinions of researchers in almost every part and attempted to justify the crimes committed by the army and the Interior Ministry.

8- The NCHR completely ignored the presence and participation of the Military forces in the armed dispersal of Rabaa Al-Adaweya and the killing of thousands of unarmed civilian protesters nationwide.

HRM calls for the urgent intervention by the UN Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Killings and urges them to form a quick and independent fact-finding mission into all the violations committed in the armed dispersal at the hands of the military and the police which resulted in the killing of thousands of peaceful protesters.

Below are comments on parts of the NCHR final report:

The NCHR stated that during the sit-in, cases of extrajudicial killing, torture, arbitrary detention of other citizens at the hands of protesters in Rabaa Al-Adaweya as well as inciting hate and violence were reasons to disperse the sit-in.

HRM carried out a fact-finding mission along with other activists to inspect the sit-in. HRM stresses that the findings of the mission were that rooms for torture and places of detention were not found and live ammunitions and guns were also not found. Only wooden sticks and batons were found.

The NCHR stated that the forces which carried out the dispersal of Rabaa Sit-in were security forces, from the Ministry of Interior. The fact confirmed by HRM’s researchers was that military forces as well as Task Force 777, which is an Egyptian military counter-terrorism and special operations forces, were clearly involved.

The NCHR stated that enough notice time for leaving the Rabaa Al-Adaweya was not given and was only 25 minutes starting at 7 am.

According to our researchers who were present during the dispersal and eyewitnesses who gave their testimony, the sit-in included a large number of women, children and elderly people. The forced dispersal started at 6am. With snipers and special operations forces placed on roofs on the building leading to Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in, sniping and killing by-passers as well as peaceful protesters, with deadly shots in the head, chest and thighs. Armoured vehicles with special forced and army units surrounded Rabaa Al-Adaweya square and used live ammunitions and internationally prohibited weapons.

The NCHR stated that security forces abided by the international standard for the dispersal of crowds and sit-ins and that live ammunitions were being used by both sides, leading to the killing of 632 people, including 8 police officers.

According to our researches, the protesters built barricades of sand and placed cars in the middle of roads in order to prevent the entrance of armoured police and military vehicles. Exchange of firearms was not witnessed by our researchers nor by witnesses of the forced dispersal. There was no armed resistance by the protesters at all. However, protesters began throwing rocks at the forces and burnt plastic tires in order to prevent the snipers from being able to kill unarmed protesters.  Heavy arms, live ammunitions, internationally prohibited weapons, Grinov guns and other more lethal weapons were used by military units and special forces. Researchers of HRM took photos and videos of weapons used that made the upper body of victims explode and caused total damage in the brains. Those are banned internationally from use for the dispersal of the crowds.

The number of victims who were killed on 14 August 2013, was above 2000. It is known that 1182 civilians died immediately as a result of being shot by the police and the military. HRM was able to document their cases and submitted them to the UN. The number of deaths in other places of protests and sit–ins nationwide which were also dispersed was above 2000. The Ministry of Interior did not announce the names of police officers the NCHR claims were killed, which is evidently unusual.

Below is HRM’s account on Rabaa Al-Adaweya Massacre on 14 August 2013, published in December 2013:

Rabaa Al-Adaweya Sit-In Massacre

On August 14, 2013 the Cabinet, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Defense issued a decision to break up the anti-coup sit-ins. HRM team of researchers was not able to verify whether the Attorney General also issued a decision in this regard or not.

Testimonies and eyewitness accounts about the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in affirmed the absolutely peaceful nature of the entire camp, and that not a single protester did anything to harm any person or attack private or public property. Sit-in participants invited local and international media establishments and human rights organizations to come visit the sites and see for themselves whether they are peaceful or not. According to researchers and monitors, the place was fully accessible to all: in the entire sit-in site, there was no closed tent or a place where people were forbidden to inspect.

Researchers also documented some minor clashes or altercations between certain local residents and some of the protesters. But these clashes were simply isolated individual cases, alien to the general character of the sit-in.

Further, researchers reported seeing wooden sticks and batons with some protesters, and also some iron plates used as shields. Inside the square, there were teams of volunteers who tried to repel attacks by thugs. Those wore some self-protection items such as helmets used by construction workers, and body shields to protect the torso area similar to those used by players in some rough contact sports. Sit-in participants also built concrete and brick barriers and used sandbags for protection. They built some concrete walls at the square’s entrance from the ‘Memorial Statue’ side and Youssef Abbas Street.

Official government sources said protesters had firearms and birdshots, but failed to provide any evidence of that, although the square is surrounded by military installations that boast a large number of surveillance cameras which could provide such evidence.

It should be noted that the description of the following events is based on our Egyptian and British researchers’ own accounts, as they were present in Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square until the sit-in site was completely evicted, and on a collection of more than 134 testimonies by the injured, families of victims and other eyewitnesses, as well as a large number of videos recorded by cameras of some survivors of the dispersal.

At 6:30AM, security forces and army troops, along with a large number of policemen in heavy gear, as well as bulldozers, surrounded the square from all sides. Then, bulldozers began to move in from all directions toward the center of the square. Protesters inside threw stones at bulldozers and security forces coming at them. The police responded with an extremely heavy barrage of tear gas and birdshots, injuring a large number of people.

A number of doctors and first aid volunteers set up 17 points as field hospitals, with raised flags on which they clearly wrote ‘Field Hospital’. Doctors made a point of putting on full official medical uniforms as they began to receive the wounded. Half an hour after the start of the armed attack, all ambulances withdrew completely from the square on orders from the Ministry of Health, as it specifically affirmed. Only one ambulance remained, refusing to leave the square, and continued to transport the injured and dead to the field hospitals with the help of some motorcycles and civilian vehicles, until a sniper killed the ambulance driver with a live bullet to the head at 1:00PM.

At about 8:00AM, bulldozers surrounded the square from all sides, while security forces cordoned off the square completely, blocking all entrances and exits. They used loudspeakers to broadcast a statement calling on demonstrators to get out of the square, saying that disbanding the sit-in is being carried out in accordance with the law, and monitored by many human rights organizations and the Public Prosecutor. This was later denied by the Public Prosecutor.

Similarly, no human rights organization reported overseeing the process of eviction. Researchers also confirmed that there were no safe exits as announced by troops on loudspeakers. Security forces taking part in the eviction deliberately killed anyone who tried to get out of the square. There was even no way to evacuate the bodies or the injured from the square. After surrounding the square from all sides, forces involved in the dispersal of the sit-in fired high-caliber bullets, birdshots and tear-gas canisters at demonstrators who only had stones to defend themselves. This shooting spree continued until 1:30PM, killing and injuring a large number of demonstrators. The makeshift hospitals were completely overwhelmed.

Later on, a large number of Interior Ministry forces and army snipers appeared on the rooftops of military buildings around the square, and deliberately fired at demonstrators, with direct aim at head, heart or abdomen killing them instantly. Meanwhile, Police and army helicopters flew extensively over the square, and opened fire on protesters.

The slaughter continued nonstop, from all entrances to the square. Then, security forces began targeting the field hospitals directly, shooting at them, and especially at anyone carrying a camera.

The attacking forces continued to move forward slowly, until they reached the main field hospital, at which the dead bodies and the injured were gathered after the troops began targeting other field hospitals across the square.

Forces then stormed the field hospital and killed some of the wounded in front of their families and also killed some doctors who refused to abandon wounded patients. Shortly afterwards, the forces claimed full control of the square, and subsequently set fire to all the tents, even those where many wounded had taken shelter. The attacking forces also set fire to the field hospital, burning many other corpses. They arrested 790 people who tried to come out of the square.

Some eyewitnesses stated that army and police snipers shot dead some protesters who had been arrested, while they surrendered with their hands up. Cameras recorded some of those scenes.

Researchers affirmed that what happened was a crime against humanity unprecedented in Egypt’s history, and had nothing to do with evicting sit-ins in any way.

Researchers documented forces involved in the eviction of the sit-in killing women and children as well as activists and journalists, and targeted a young girl, barely seventeen years of age, whose only crime was carrying a camera.

This mass-killing crime resulted in the death of almost 2000 unarmed protesters shot directly and fatally in the head, neck and torso areas. The HRM team of researchers documented testimonies by forensic experts indicating that some gunshot wounds were caused by heavy weapons and anti-tank fire resulting in explosion of the entire skull or chest cavity with a diameter of ten centimeters. Researchers documented a large number of these injuries, as mentioned in the attached report, and work is underway, documenting the rest of cases.

This violent crackdown also injured more than five thousand unarmed protesters, 790 were arrested, nearly three hundred people are still missing and fifty charred bodies are as yet unidentified.

Researchers reported blatant intransigence on the part of authorities refusing to issue burial permits and death certificates, delaying the burial of bodies for more than 48 hours, forcing some families to bury the bodies of their loved ones without documentation of death.