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NCHR releases full report on Rabaa sit-in dispersal

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Some council members disagree with report issuance

Egyptian Mohamed Fayek (C), head of the National council for human rights, his deputy Abdelghafar Shokr (L) and Nasser Amin, member of the council, attend a press conference in Cairo on March 17, 2014, to announce the fact-finding report in relation to the elimination of the Rabaa al-Adawiya square sit-in, which grew in support of Egypt's ousted Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi.  (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

Egyptian Mohamed Fayek (C), head of the National council for human rights, his deputy Abdelghafar Shokr (L) and Nasser Amin, member of the council, attend a press conference in Cairo on March 17, 2014, to announce the fact-finding report in relation to the elimination of the Rabaa al-Adawiya square sit-in, which grew in support of Egypt’s ousted Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi.

The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) officially released on Monday its full report on the forcible dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya.

The NCHR  released ten days ago the results of a fact-finding committee established in September 2013 to look into the forcible dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in on 14 August. The summary of the report presented then caused controversy, as the council was accused of failing to properly represent the victims of the dispersal.

The report concluded that clashes began during the dispersal of the sit-in when armed protesters shot and killed a policeman. It also concluded that the majority of protesters who took part in the sit-in were peaceful protesters, adding that such peaceful demonstrators constituted the majority of the death toll at the dispersal, estimated by the council to be 632.

NCHR deputy chairman Abdel Ghaffar Shokr denied during a press conference on Monday, held by the council to release the report, that disagreements over the report caused a rift within the council.

“We held a voting within the council and the majority of the members agreed to the contents of the report,” Shokr said, describing the council as a “democratic one”.

Mohamed Abdel Qodous, board member of the Press Syndicate, is one of the members who rejected the findings of the report. “I asked Abdel Qodous to attend the council’s meeting regarding the report and record his disapproval of the report. He refused to attend, a behaviour I find undemocratic,” Shokr said.

Hafez AbuSeada, director of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, is another NCHR member who voiced his disapproval regarding the contents of the report. In a phone interview, AbuSeada described the report as “lacking”, adding that the council “did not have enough tools to properly function”.

The council’s fact-finding committee approached several official and independent bodies while conducting its report, including the Forensics Authority, the Ministry of Interior, the prosecutor general and the Ministry of Health; the latter two bodies refused to cooperate. The council also approached political groups who had participated in the sit-in, such as the Anti-Coup Alliance, which also refused to cooperate.

According to the report, the council did not gain access to the Ministry of Interior’s plan for the dispersal, but rather, deduced it from the line of events.

“The report doesn’t include comprehensive sources,” AbuSeada said. He noted that the presidency created a special fact-finding committee to look into the dispersal of the sit-in, which has a much wider jurisdiction than the one created by the NCHR.

“I suggested back then that we end the work of our committee and forward any findings we had reached at the time to the new committee, but my suggestion was turned down,” AbuSeada added.

At the time of the dispersal, which lasted for over 12 hours, the NCHR reported violations committed both by the police forces, which carried out the dispersal, and a number of armed protesters. The council accused security forces of “failing to exercise self-restraint” during the dispersal and of the “disproportionate use of force”, despite the justified use of weapons.

The NCHR showed a number of videos detailing the violations practiced before and during the dispersal during Monday’s press conference. The videos showed snipers present during the dispersal shooting at the protesters, and the burning of tents at the sit-in, which housed the bodies of the victims. The report claimed that the tents were burnt during clashes between civilians affiliated with the police and armed protesters using Molotov cocktails. According to the council, eight bodies were burnt in the process.

Videos showing police violations were absent during the press conference, which was held on 5 March to announce the results of the report.

The council also accused armed protesters of using unarmed civilians as human shields during clashes with police forces. It showed a video of an armed civilian running into a crowd of unarmed civilians, thereby endangering their lives.

The council accused police forces of failing to provide protesters with adequate time to evacuate the square before they began dispersing the sit-in. NCHR also accused security forces of failing to secure the safe exits provided for protesters until 3.30pm, due to the ongoing clashes and attempts of new protesters to join the sit-in.

Council member Nasser Amin said that due to the clashes, ambulances were unable to reach the dispersal site, and therefore, several injured protesters did not receive treatment.

The NCHR provided an independent death toll of the sit-in dispersal. According to the report, 632 were killed as a result of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal, including eight policemen, and only 377 bodies were subjected to a medical autopsy.

According to statistics provided in the report, gunshots, mostly Kalashnikovs, caused the majority of deaths among the 377 bodies. Statistics also indicated that the majority of gunshots came from front to back. Amin said that the different angles of shooting proved that the clashes took place on a wide scale and that the shooting came from different directions.

The report also mentioned reprisal attacks on churches and police stations in at least 22 governorates, which lasted four days and left 686 killed, including 64 policemen.

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