By Charlie Miller
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed that many of those killed in Saturday’s attack near Rabaa Al-Adaweya died after being “shot in the head or chest”, in a report released on Sunday.
A HRW team arrived after sunrise, at which point the clashes between supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi and groups of plainclothes men and the Central Security Forces (CSF) near 6th October Bridge had been raging for hours, leading to over 70 deaths according to the Ministry of Health.
Within thirty minutes of the team arriving at the Rabaa Al-Adaweya field hospital they witnessed a total of eight men wounded by live fire, five of whom had been shot in the head, neck or upper chest, the report continued.
Between 5am and 8am, HRW researchers noted that approximately six dead bodies were brought to the field hospital; medical staff informed them that two had received single gunshot wounds to the forehead. The report added that the four other victims had “sustained single gunshot wounds to the chest and torso.”
Nadim Houry, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, was quoted in the report, saying: “The use of deadly fire on such a scale so soon after the interim president announced the need to impose order by force suggests a shocking willingness by the police and by certain politicians to ratchet up violence against pro-Morsi protesters,” referencing speeches by interim president Adly Mansour and Minister of the Interior General Mohamed Ibrahim earlier on Saturday.
In the same press conference, Ibrahim announced that the Ministry of the Interior had been coordinating with the army to disperse the sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya in Nasr City and Al-Nahda Square near Cairo University, Giza.
HRW had reviewed videos which depicted “a large group of civilians standing opposite pro-Morsi protestors, flanked by at least four armoured police vehicles and personnel carriers, as well as CSF officers.”
The organisation conducted interviews with a number of eyewitnesses whose testimony corroborated the accounts of many pro-Morsi demonstrators present; and is contradictory to the official account, which claims that CSF officers fired only tear gas to disperse protestors.
A number of the doctors present reported to HRW that demonstrators had been shot from above, saying the angle of many of the gunshot wounds were consistent with a downward trajectory. One such doctor, named in the HRW report as Fouad, claimed that around “80% [of those killed] were shot by snipers targeted from above.”
Another medic, named in the report as Ibrahim, told HRW that he had “picked up five men, all [hit] with a single shot to the head.” Various eyewitness testimonies claim that CSF opened fire with live rounds at approximately 1.30 am, after tear gas proved ineffective against the crowds, some of whom admitted to throwing rocks at the gathered troops. A number of eyewitnesses reported that security forces had used birdshot continuously, and claimed the security forces’ use of live fire as “aimed, single-fire.”
The report urged law enforcement to “take all reasonable steps to protect lives”, adding that the use of intentional lethal force should be limited to “when it is strictly necessary to protect life.” Citing previous cases of excessive use of lethal force, namely the events outside the Republican Guard headquarters on 8 July, HRW stressed that there was a “pressing need for security sector reform and accountability for abuses perpetrated by the police and military.”