Serious allegations of war crimes have been directed at the Egyptian military and police forces by Human Rights Watch in a 134 page report which looks in detail at the operations carried out in the Sinai Peninsula against local Daesh affiliated groups.
Published today, the report: “‘If You Are Afraid for Your Lives, Leave Sinai!’: Egyptian Security Forces and ISIS-Affiliate Abuses in North Sinai”, documents the way in which “the Egyptian military and police have carried out systematic and widespread arbitrary arrests—including of children—enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings, collective punishment, and forced evictions”. It claims that the Egyptian regime has made attempts to conceal details uncovered in the report through an effective ban on independent reporting.
Thousands of people – including civilians, militants, and members of the security forces, are thought to have been killed since fighting escalated in 2013. The Majority of the abuse and killing were carried out by the Egyptian military and police forces, however, extremist militants are also responsible for committing “horrific crimes, including kidnapping and torturing scores of residents, killing some, and extrajudicial executing detained security force members”.
“Instead of protecting Sinai residents in their fight against militants, the Egyptian security forces have shown utter contempt to residents’ lives, turning their daily life into a nonstop nightmare of abuses,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The report found that from January 2014 until June 2018, 3,076 alleged militants and 1,226 military and police personnel were killed in the fighting. No wrongdoing has been admitted by Egyptian authorities who the rights group said “frequently counted civilians among the alleged militants killed.” Hundreds of civilians are said to have been killed or injured by Egyptian forces.
The Egyptian army has recruited North Sinai residents into militias that have played a substantial role in abuses, Human Rights Watch said. Militia members are said to use their de-facto powers to arbitrarily arrest residents and settle scores and personal disputes. They have also participated in torture and extrajudicial killings.
Local Daesh affiliated groups that have taken root in the Sinai Province are believed to have committed “horrific crimes” which the report said includes, “kidnapping scores of residents and members of the military or police and extrajudicial killing some of them”.
Pointing to Egypt’s reluctance to investigate the issues raised in the report, Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations Human Rights Council and the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights to open independent commissions of inquiry into the abuses in Sinai. It also called on Egypt’s international partners to immediately halt all security and military assistance until the President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s regime ends its abuses.