Joint Press Release: Non-peaceful assembly does not justify collective punishment - Rights groups condemn lethal violence against those in sit-in and terrorist acts of the Muslim Brotherhood

Thursday 15 August 2013

The undersigned rights organizations condemn the use of excessive force yesterday by the security authorities when dispersing the sit-in by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its supporters at Rabia al-Adawiya Square in the Cairo governorate and Nahda Square in Giza. The action left hundreds dead and thousands seriously injured, as well as dozens of bodies torched in still unexplained circumstances. We believe the security apparatus could have avoided this human tragedy if it had complied with international rules and standards for the dispersal of assemblies. Moreover, in the past weeks, the security authorities have failed to do their duty to take the necessary legal measures to protect public security and citizens, particularly residents and passersby in the aforementioned two areas, which in turn allowed weapons, ammunition, and fortifications to enter the sit-ins and led to killing, torture, and physical assaults on journalists with impunity.

That some participants in the sit-in, and it’s leaders committed criminal acts, were in possession of weapons, and engaged in violence does not give the security authorities a license to impose collective punishment and use excessive force when dispersing the sit-in, according to international standards for the right of peaceful assembly.. Moreover, decision makers, when choosing to use excessive force, did not show due consideration to containing retaliatory violence by the MB and its supporters, although retribution against Coptic Egyptians and public incitement to terrorism began several weeks ago. This raises additional concerns about the competence of political and security decision-making at this critical juncture, particularly regarding the consequences for human rights. Indeed, the policies and practices pursued by the authorities when faced with the two sit-ins, since the removal of President Morsy on July 3 and including the storming of the protests yesterday, represent an utter failure to apply the rule of law and respect citizens’ rights and the right to life and security, and an inability to comprehend the political repercussions of mismanaging this crisis over the last six weeks. As a result, largest number of people was killed in the shortest span of time in a political assembly since January 28, 2011, while people’s lives are now at risk in the coming months and years due to a potential increase in terrorist acts.

In response to the storming of the sit-ins, members and supporters of the MB terrorized citizens in the capital and other provinces and attempted to storm several government facilities and police stations, killing some officers. They also attacked churches in Upper Egypt and Sinai, destroying and torching several of them, and threatened Christian citizens with further physical violence in several cities. Although the undersigned organizations previously cautioned the MB against such deplorable conduct and asked it to stop its incitement against Christians, the group disregarded these pleas and showed no concern for the lives of citizens it claims to be legitimately empowered to govern.

The increased scope of these criminal acts indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to pursue political violence and terrorism for the time being; instead of engaging in self-criticism and recognizing its failure to maintain the trust of citizens who voted for it, the group seeks to spur the country toward a civil war, a possibility that first reared its head in November. In December, MB supporters killed their political opponents and tortured others, while Brotherhood leaders began fomenting anti-Christian sectarian incitement. The anti-Coptic incitement and threats continued unabated up to the demonstrations of June 30 and, with the removal of President Morsy on July 3, morphed into sectarian violence, which was sanctioned by the MB, both by their complicit silence and refusal to condemn these crimes and by the continued anti-Coptic rhetoric heard from the group’s leaders on the stage at Rabia al-Adawiya throughout the sit-in. Despite this, the security apparatus took no action to protect the lives of Christian citizens and their houses of worship, and therefore bear responsibility for failing to stop the violence.

The undersigned organizations fear that increased terrorism and the threat of civil war may lead the authorities to take further exceptional measures to protect citizens’ lives, but instead the state must immediately adopt a serious plan to contain the violence and restore the political process hijacked by security solutions in the capital and, before that, Sinai, where security has failed to protect even police stations and government facilities. Here we note that we reminded the new political authority after June 30 of the need to avoid the mistakes of previous governments that ignored demands for security and political reform.

We again urge members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to immediately cease violence and incitement to violence against Christian citizens and the group’s political opponents, denounce all MB leaders who incited to or practiced violence, accept the political outcome of the June 30 uprising, return to peaceful politics, and develop the group’s religious and political discourse. Finally, we renew our demands for independent investigations of the extrajudicial killing of citizens since July 3 and the prosecution of all those directly involved.

The undersigned groups also demand an accounting for the cause of the many deaths yesterday and the burning of dozens of corpses during the storming of the sit-in. We further ask for the investigation of MB leaders and supporters involved in incitement to religious hatred, violence, torture, killing, and attacks on journalists and the prosecution of any person involved in these crimes.

Signatory organizations

1.     Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
2.     Arab Network for Human Rights Information.
3.     Arab Penal Reform Organization.
4.     Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.
5.     Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
6.     Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
7.     Hesham Mubarak Law Center.
8.     Nazra for Feminist Studies.
9.     The Human Rights Association for the Assistance of the Prisoners.