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Rabaa massacre ‘critical turning point for human rights,’ says Amnesty

August 14, 2023 at 12:41 pm

Women hold banners reading ‘Free Egypt’ during a protest marking the fourth anniversary of Rabaa Al-Adawoya massacre in Times Square, New York, United States on 13 August 2017 [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

The Rabaa massacre a decade ago was a “critical turning point for human rights in Egypt,” Amnesty International has said on the anniversary of the killings.

On 14 August 2013, Egyptian security forces entered Rabaa square, where thousands of people were protesting, and shot at them, set fire to tents, and threw tear gas at them.

Over 1,000 protesters are thought to have died that day. Survivors have been imprisoned, sentenced to death and many are living in exile.

Since then, authorities have intensified their assault on peaceful dissent, says Amnesty, and prevented officials from being held accountable.

In what Amnesty calls the “decade of shame” since the lethal dispersal, Egyptian authorities have targeted not only members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood but all critics of their brutal crackdown.

As part of this crackdown, authorities have passed legislation including bills which criminalise peaceful protests, criticism online and independent human rights.

READ: The Rabaa Massacre

Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death or been handed lengthy prison terms in emergency, military and special terrorism courts after criticising the government or for taking part in the Rabaa protests.

These abuses are taking place even though authorities have attempted to hide them, including with the National Human Rights Strategy, which according to Amnesty “cannot obfuscate the reality that Egypt’s human rights and impunity crisis persists.”

In the past ten years Egypt has eradicated street protests and widened its grip over the media landscape by arresting and censoring journalists and controlling the content.

In addition to cracking down on protesters, the Egyptian authorities have refused to carry out independent, impartial investigations into officials responsible for the massacre.

Instead, a 2014 report released by a fact-finding committee established by former prime minister Adly Mansour mostly blamed the Rabaa massacre on protest leaders.

“Without addressing the legacy of the mass unlawful killings 10 years ago, Egypt cannot emerge from its human rights crisis,” Amnesty said in a report released today, ‘Egypt’s Decade of Shame’.

“Members of the international community must not allow the Egyptian authorities to erase the memory of this darkest of days in Egypt’s recent history, and should instead echo the demands of survivors, victims’ families and human rights defenders for truth, justice and reparations.”