Islamist Groups Must Stop Inciting to Sectarian Violence; Protection of Christians Responsibility of the State
The undersigned organizations express their grave concern regarding the increasing sectarian violence which has targeted Christians and their churches since the uprising of June 30. These organizations strongly condemn the rhetoric employed by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies which includes clear incitement to violence and religious hatred in order to achieve political gains, regardless of the grave repercussions of such rhetoric for peace in Egypt.
The undersigned organizations further denounce the continued negligence of the institutions of the state to provide the necessary protection to Christian citizens, to decisively confront sectarian attacks, and to enforce the law by holding those responsible for the acts of sectarian violence which have been seen in several governorates to account. This negligence reveals that the pattern of impunity which spread during the Mubarak era and remained in place throughout the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood continues to this day, even after both of these regimes were overthrown.
Reports from northern Sinai reveal that the military and the police continue to be incapable of providing sufficient protection to civilians – both Muslims and Christians – in the face of acts of violence, intimidation, and terrorism carried out by armed groups of Islamist extremists. Among the Christian citizens who have been targeted for killings and kidnappings is priest Mina Aboud Sharoubim, as well as Christian citizen Magdi Lamaai, who was killed after his family was unable to pay the ransom demanded in return for his release. Mina Matry Shouqi was also abducted, yet he was released after his family paid the required ransom. It is also reported that a large number of Christians from northern Sinai have been displaced, as they have been forced to flee the continual threats to their lives. Churches have remained closed most of the time due to fears that they will be attacked, as they are not provided sufficient protection by the military or the police.
In the eastern town of Beni Ahmed, located in the governorate of Minya, the state institutions and security forces have clearly refrained from intervening to put an end to sectarian tensions which have been on the rise for a full month between the town’s residents, who are mostly Christians, and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from the surrounding villages.
This negligence led to residents from these villages surrounding and attacking Beni Ahmed on August 3. Clashes broke out between the two sides, yet the police did not intervene until over two hours later. Although police did secure the town’s church, they neglected to prevent attacks on private property, including homes, cars, and shops.
The undersigned organizations note the destructive effects both of the sectarian rhetoric used by some Islamists to incite against Christians and of the negligence demonstrated by security forces in protecting these citizens. Therefore, we insist that that the public prosecution must carry out its duty to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes of sectarian violence and to bring them to trial. We further emphasize the need to provide adequate protection to witnesses of these crimes.
This is particularly important, as one witness of a sectarian killing in Asyut on June 30 was abducted only days after he testified before the public prosecution; it is believed that his abductors belong to al-Jama’a al-Islameyya. He was found days later on the side of a road, and his body bore signs of torture.
In light of the likelihood of increased acts of sectarian violence, the undersigned organizations demand the following:
- Islamist groups must reject violence, put an end to all forms of speech which incites to violence or religious hatred, and condemn those involved in such acts.
- The state and its relevant institutions must prosecute the perpetrators of acts of sectarian violence as well as those involved in incitement to this violence and ensure that they are held to account without resorting to customary reconciliation measures, which are always biased in favor of the stronger party at the expense of the rights of the weaker party.
- Urgent, impartial investigations must be carried out by the public prosecution into crimes of sectarian violence. The conclusions of these investigations must be made public, and adequate protection must be provided to the witnesses of these crimes. The public prosecution should call for an independent investigation to determine what led to inadequate protection being provided to Christians, their property, and their places of worship, whether by the military or the police, and the necessary measures should be taken to hold those responsible for this neglect to account.
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
- Appropriate Communications Techniques for Developments (ACT)
- Arab Network for Human Rights Information
- Arab Penal Reform Organization
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Aid
- Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
- Egyptian foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Conditions
- Egyptians against Religious Discrimination.
- Group for Human Rights Legal Assistance
- Habi Center for Environmental Rights
- Land Center For Human Rights
- Nazra for Feminist Studies
- The Human Rights Association for the Assistance of the Prisoners