Egypt's recent crackdown led to worst mass unlawful killings ever: HRW

New York, Aug. 20 (ANI): Egyptian security forces' rapid and massive use of lethal force to disperse sit-ins on August 14, 2013 had led to the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

The ongoing HRW investigation has indicated that the decision to use live ammunition on a large scale from the outset has 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 failure of the authorities to provide safe exit from the sit-in, including for people wounded by live fire and needing urgent medical attention, was a serious violation of international standards, HRW said.

According to the lists of the dead obtained by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the death toll during the dispersal of the Rab'a sit-in was at least 377, which was significantly higher than the latest Rab'a death toll of 288 announced by the Health Ministry.

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 said.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the nationwide August 14 death toll of 638 includes 43 police officers.

The dispersal had sparked gunfights in the Cairo neighborhood of Mohandessin and an attack on a police station in Kerdassa, in greater Cairo, which left four policemen dead.

HRW has confirmed Islamists had attacked and burned at least 32 churches in nine cities immediately after the dispersals.

On-going clashes between the security forces, Muslim Brotherhood protesters, and anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters has led to at least 173 additional deaths by August 18, according to the Ministry of Health.

HRW has been investigating the government's dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins at Rab'a al-Adawiya in Nasr City and at Nahda in Giza, in greater Cairo.

Security forces had failed to plan the operation to minimize the risk to life, including ensured safe exits and giving public orders not to kill except in a targeted manner, when absolutely necessary, HRW claimed.

Witnesses interviewed by HRW and video footage posted on YouTube indicated that the police unlawfully killed protesters who were clearly not engaged in any form of violence.

Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, had declared a curfew on the afternoon of August 14 and a one-month state of emergency, which according to HRW sends the wrong signal.

Security forces will read it as license for additional reckless and unlawful use of force, particularly given the long history of abuses carried out under states of emergency in Egypt.

HRW has documented a rise in sectarian violence since Morsy's ouster on July 3, with at least six major attacks on Christians in governorates across Egypt, including Luxor, Marsa Matrouh, Minya, North Sinai, Port Said, and Qena. (ANI)

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