A graphic video of a soldier in Sinai cutting off the finger of a corpse then setting fire to his body and burying him in the desert has been widely shared on social media.
The soldier, who has been identified as Abdulrahman of military battalion #103, recorded himself mutilating the corpse. The video was leaked to the well-known Egyptian presenter Abdullah El-Sherif and broadcast on his weekly YouTube channel last night.
Several rights organisations have said the victim is a civilian, but his name is not yet known.
Rights Organisation We Record told MEMO that they believe the incident took place in Rafah or Bir Al-Abd in North Sinai and that the soldier was originally from New Cairo, but works in North Sinai.
The date of the video has not been established.
Egypt has been fighting a protracted war on terror in the Sinai Peninsula that has intensified during President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s rise to power.
Locals have described it as a war on civilians due to the punitive measures that are carried out against the local population and the abuse recorded on this latest video confirms that systematic rights violations are taking place there.
Houses have been demolished, thousands displaced, children forcibly disappeared and civilians extrajudicially killed.
The government has gone to great measures to control the narrative, pushing the idea it is fighting a just war on terror and at the same time prohibiting journalists and human rights workers from entering the peninsula.
A number of critics, including the former US-Egypt Ambassador Anne Paterson, have questioned Egypt’s ability to tackle terrorism given that it is estimated there are only 1,000 militants at any one time in the peninsula, yet seven years later the war continues.
A recent UN report raised serious concerns about Egypt’s anti-terror laws being abused to increase rights violations in the peninsula, including the suspension of schools across North Sinai.
Extensive damage to property has been made; there is a food crisis and internet and communications networks have been blocked and electricity cut.
The fact that this particular incident was recorded by the soldier raises serious concerns about the lack of accountability that plagues human rights violations in Sinai, and the bravado with which the army views such acts.
In March 2018 a video circulated of a teenager pleading for his mother moments before he was shot by an Egyptian soldier.
Later, reserve officer Mohammed Amer boasted on Facebook that it was him that shot the boy in the leaked video, then deleted the post.
Activists are calling on the Egyptian government to open an investigation into what happened, particularly as the face of the soldier is clearly visible in the video.
They are also calling on the international community to use their leverage to force Egypt to abide by the rule of law.
The US gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid every year.
Since the 2013 coup that elevated Sisi to power the EU has increased arms sales to Egypt and ignored human rights abuses, praising the war on terror in Sinai without mentioning the effect it has had on civilians.
“We are holding President Trump and the European Union accountable for such criminal violations that are taking place by General Sisi and his forces,” director of the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms, Heba Hassan, told MEMO.