Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday it would electronically release its report on the deadly dispersals of protests in Egypt last year, after Egyptian authorities “blocked” a scheduled Cairo release.
HRW’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth, Middle East Director Sara Leah Whitson and Fellow Omar Shakir arrived in Cairo Sunday, on three different flights. Roth and Whitson were held overnight and then deported.
Speaking to the Daily News Egypt from Beirut, Shakir said he did not face any issues entering Egypt but decided to go to Beirut “in light of the clear signal being sent”.
HRW said in a statement that authorities did not provide an explanation as to why Roth and Whitson were denied entry. The Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment, despite continuous attempts throughout the day.
Roth, Whitson and Shakir were scheduled to participate in the release of a 188-page report on the dispersals of six demonstrations in July and August 2013, including that of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya encampment, the largest one organised to show support for ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Roth said: “Instead of denying the messenger entry to Egypt, the Egyptian authorities should seriously consider our conclusions and recommendations and respond with constructive action.”
The report is the result of a year-long investigation and “documents how Egyptian police and army methodically opened fire with live ammunition on crowds… killing at least 1,150”. It includes interviews with over 200 witnesses and concludes that “the systematic and widespread killings likely amount to crimes against humanity”.
Roth said HRW had already sent the report to senior Egyptian officials and was hoping to have meetings with them to discuss it. “However, it appears the Egyptian government has no appetite to face up to the reality of these abuses, let alone hold those responsible to account,” he added.
In order to “solicit the Egyptian government’s perspectives” on issues in the report, HRW sent preliminary findings of the report to several government bodies including the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Interior, as well as the Office of the Public Prosecutor in June. The watchdog sent follow up letters in July, asking to meet officials during HRW’s planned visit in August and sent copies of the report to the same officials last week.
HRW said it “did not receive substantive responses to any of its queries”.
On 14 August 2013, Egyptian security forces dispersed pro-Morsi encampments in Rabaa and Al-Nahda squares. Exact figures on the number of protester deaths are still disputed.
Wiki Thawra, a website dedicated to documenting the Egyptian revolution, put the death toll of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal at 969 and that of Al-Nahda dispersal at 96. Official figures are lower. The Forensics Authority announced 627 deaths in the Rabaa dispersal and 21 in Al-Nahda.
HRW said the Rabaa dispersal left 817 people dead, “making it one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”. HRW said: “One year later, no one has been held to account.”
While the report, titled “All According to Plan: The Rabaa Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt,” was scheduled to be released in a private briefing on Tuesday, it will still be released on schedule, but electronically.
This is the first time that staff at HRW is denied entry into Egypt, including during the era of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, the watchdog said. In February, HRW closed its office in Cairo due to “concerns about the deteriorating security and political environment in the country”.