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HRW says Egyptian security forces planned violent crackdown last year

HRW says Egyptian security forces planned violent crackdown last year

PanARMENIAN.Net - The killings of at least 817 people by Egyptian security forces last year probably amount to a crime against humanity, Human Rights Watch said, according to BBC News.

A report by the U.S.-based group says 1,000 or more people probably died in one day around Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. The deaths came during demonstrations broken up by Egyptian security forces.

Executive director Kenneth Roth said the deaths were "one of the world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history". Roth and a colleague were stopped from entering Egypt on Monday, Aug 11.

They were due to launch the new report at a press conference in the Egyptian capital, but were deported after being held for 12 hours at Cairo International Airport.

The group's year-long investigation focused on six demonstrations in July and August 2013 that were forcefully broken up by security forces, then under the command of now-President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi, who was then a general running Egypt's military and was elected head of state in May 2014, oversaw the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. In the aftermath his armed forces launched a brutal crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

HRW's report says Egyptian police and army "methodically opened fire with live ammunition on crowds" demonstrating against Morsi's removal from power. The clearing of the protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on August 14, 2013 followed "a plan that envisioned several thousand deaths," according to the report.

The rights group estimates that a minimum of 817 people died during the violence at the mosque but says the actual figure was more likely 1,000 or more.

"Given the widespread and systematic nature of these killings," the report adds, "these killings most likely amount to crimes against humanity."

Roth said the actions were not "merely a case of excessive force or poor training."

"It was a violent crackdown planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government," he said. "Many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for."

At the time, the government congratulated the police and army for its actions and praised their "self-restraint". It claimed that armed protesters had attacked security forces and that force had only been used in response to violence from demonstrators.

The government has not yet responded to the Human Rights Watch report or made any comment on its employees being denied entry to the country on Monday, the BBC says.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the head of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, said airport officials told her and Roth that they were being deported for "security reasons".

In a statement, HRW said it was the first time that Egyptian authorities had denied its staff members entry to the country, including during the rule of ex-President Hosni Mubarak.

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