| Egypt: Troops committed ‘mass unlawful killings’, watchdog says – live!

Egypt: Troops committed ‘mass unlawful killings’, watchdog says – live ~  and theguardian.com.

• Mubarak lawyer says former president could be freed
• New charges against Morsi, Reuters reports 
• 25 police officers executed in Sinai 
• Read the latest blog summary

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters inside a cage in a courtroom at the police academy in Cairo, in this file picture taken April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/FilesFormer Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters inside a cage in a courtroom at the police academy in Cairo, in this file picture taken April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

7.09pm BST

Basil El-Dabh of Daily News Egypt observes Cairo observing the nightly curfew:

Zamalek, 8 pm pic.twitter.com/ivSFL9PaRL

— Basil الضبع (@basildabh) August 19, 2013

6.57pm BST

McClatchy’s Hannah Allam is tracking today’s US State Department briefing, dominated so far by Egypt:

Q. Are US and #SaudiArabia on opposite sides in #Egypt? State: We all want to get Egypt back on track, nothing further for you on this

— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) August 19, 2013

State Dept: We have a decades-long relationship w/#Egypt that we hope will continue. We hope they can cont on path to sustainable democracy

— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) August 19, 2013

Updated at 6.58pm BST

6.50pm BST

Sara Hussein of the AFP files a harrowing report from Zeinhom morgue in Cairo, overwhelmed by decaying bodies, frustrated family members and angry onlookers:

Outside a morgue in Egypt’s capital, a woman mediates between her parents. Her mother cannot believe the decomposing body before them is their son. Her father insists that it is.

“What’s going on? Why hasn’t anyone claimed this body,” shouts one man, a surgical mask pulled below his mouth.

“The family can’t decide if it’s him,” another man yells back.

“The father says it’s his son, but the mother says it isn’t.”

A woman in a black dress and head scarf clutching a picture of a young man agrees to try to identify the body.

“I’m the daughter,” she says, reluctant at first to see the face of the body lying wrapped in a white sheet inside a crude wooden box.

The situation at #Cairo‘s Zeinhom morgue is so distressing. Completely overwhelmed, and local thugs there stirred up trouble for media.

— Sara Hussein (@sarahussein) August 19, 2013

Clouds of flies hover above it, some landing on the chunks of ice placed on top of the corpse in an attempt to slow decomposition.

“Does he have a mark by his eye?” she asks the men standing around the body, in an apparent bid to avoid having to view the corpse.

Some say yes, others say no, and so the sheet is unwrapped, revealing a face dark and different, but still that of the young man in her photo.

Read the full report here.

6.42pm BST

Earnest is asked about the announcement Sunday by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal that Saudi Arabia would fill any financial gaps left by Western countries withdrawing aid from Egypt. Reuters reported on the Sunday announcement:

Speaking to state news agency SPA in Jeddah after visiting France on Sunday, Prince Saud also accused Western countries of tacitly encouraging Muslim Brotherhood violence with their criticism of the Egyptian military.

“To those who have declared they are stopping aid to Egypt or are waving such a threat, the Arab and Muslim nations are wealthy with their people and resources and will not shy away from offering a helping hand to Egypt,” he said.

The White House spokesman pleads ignorance of the announcement: “I haven’t actually seen that announcement from the Saudis,” Earnest says.

6.35pm BST

“No decision has been made to withhold any aid,” Earnest says.

6.35pm BST

Earnest restates the White House condemnation of the security forces’ killing of protesters:

“It is evident that a large number of people who were peaceful protesters were the victims of violence that was committed by the interim government of Egypt,” he says. The action, Earnest says, “does not reflect [the interim government] commitment to begin an inclusive process to make that transition back to democracy.”

6.32pm BST

Earnest is asked what real force there is behind the US threat to cancel aid to Egypt, given the much greater flow of money toward Cairo from the Gulf. Earnest skips the question and gives a pat answer about how the US will make aid decisions based on its interests and the law.

Then a more provocative question: Is the White House worried that if it stops aid to Egypt, the generals will stop protecting US assets in Egypt?

“I would characterize the relationship as important beyond just the military cooperation,” Earnest says. As examples, he redundantly mentions economic support and IMF assistance, then he says ensuring tourism is an important (mutual?) concern. Not on Earnest’s list: the security of Israel.

6.21pm BST

Earnest is asked about whether the US is considering changing its approach on Egypt. He says there are ongoing high-level conversations and the US side has told Egypt that they must “transition back” to a democratically elected government. He mentions the delay of the F-16s delivery and the cancellation of joint military exercises.

Nothing new there.

6.17pm BST

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest has opened the daily briefing.

First question about possible Mubarak release and Morsi detention. How alarming is that for the president?

I don’t have any specific conversations to read out to you, Earnest says. Then he declines comment on Mubarak:

The legal proceedings against former president Mubarak.. that is an Egyptian legal matter, and something that I’ll leave for them to determine. It’s not something that I’m gonna weigh in on from here.

5.59pm BST

Ahmed Maher and Joanna Mikhail, filmmakers with the Atlantic Council group EgyptSource, interview Egyptians about lethal security forces raids to break up pro-Morsi sit-ins, the resignation from the government of Mohamed ElBaradei and the burning of churches.

Visit the EgyptSource web site here.

(h/t: @nfm)

5.38pm BST

Al-Jazeera has published an interactive timeline of clashes on the Sinai peninsula going back to the shooting death by government forces of a Bedouin protester in January 2011.

5.23pm BST

In a new report, Human Rights Watch says government forces killed “at least 377” people at Raba’a al-Atawiya mosque last Wednesday as troops broke up pro-Morsi demonstrations, in what the report calls a “massive use of lethal force,” “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history” and “a serious violation of international standards”:

The ongoing Human Rights Watch investigation indicates that the decision to use live ammunition on a large scale from the outset reflected a failure to observe basic international policing standards on use of lethal force and was not justified by the disruptions caused by the demonstrations or the limited possession of arms by some protesters. The failure of the authorities to provide safe exit from the sit-in, including for people wounded by live fire and needing urgent medical attention, was a serious violation of international standards, Human Rights Watch said.

Based on first-hand documentation and interviews with health workers by Human Rights Watch, and lists of the dead obtained by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the death toll during the dispersal of the Rab’a sit-in appears to be at least 377, significantlyhigher than the latest Rab’a death toll of 288 announced by the Health Ministry.

Read the full report here.

Updated at 5.42pm BST

4.58pm BST


Here’s a summary of developments so far today in/on Egypt. On the horizon for this afternoon is the daily White House briefing scheduled for 1pm ET.

• State prosecutors have brought new charges against President Mohamed Morsi for an alleged role in “violent acts” committed during protests last December, state news reported. Morsi, who has not been heard from in seven weeks and whose location is unknown, faces several layers of charges directed by the government that replaced him.

• Reports of the new charges emerged as activist groups called for an investigation into the killing of 36 Morsi supporters while they were in state custody. It was the fourth mass killing since last Wednesday. In all an estimated 1,000 people, mostly Morsi backers, have been killed in clashes and executions in the last week.

• 25 off-duty police officers were killed in Sinai in an ambush by unidentified militants. The militants stopped two buses carrying the officers, removed them and executed them.

• As Morsi fades out, Mubarak fades in: the fallen strongman’s lawyer said Mubarak could be freed within 48 hours, although that estimate conflicted with reports of procedural matters, at least, that would delay any release. An Egyptian court was said to order that Mubarak be released.

• The EU is meeting today to “urgently review” its relations with Egypt,  British foreign secretary William Hague said.

4.36pm BST

The new charges against Morsi tie him to “violent acts,” according to the state news as quoted by Reuters:

Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered on Monday the detention of deposed President Mohamed Mursi for 15 days pending an investigation into allegations he participated in “violent acts”, state news agency MENA said.

On Thursday, Egyptian judicial authorities extended Mursi’s detention period for 30 days in a separate case.

Mursi, who was overthrown by the army on July 3, is being held at an undisclosed location on allegations of murder and spying. The new case centres on protests that took place in front of the presidential palace last December, MENA said.

The palace was the scene of huge opposition – as in anti-Morsi-government opposition – protests last December.

4.26pm BST

Tom McCarthy in New York here taking over for Sam Jones in London.

Reuters is reporting new charges against deposed President Mohamed Morsi: “Egypt prosecutor orders deposed President Morsi detained for 15 days in new case of inciting violence.”

The irony of Morsi being accused of inciting violence as hundreds of his supporters are killed in the streets is potent. Morsi, of course, is already under detention and has not been publicly seen or heard from in seven weeks.

Updated at 4.28pm BST

3.29pm BST

More on the press conference Ian Black mentioned before.

This morning the Egyptian Anti-Coup Alliance called for a formal investigation into yesterday’s killing of dozens of imprisoned protesters, reports al-Jazeera.

In an address to the media the group, which comprises supporters of Morsi, demanded an “international investigation into this horrific crime, in addition to other crimes committed by leaders of the 3rd of July [coup].”

According to Egyptian security forces, the protesters died from suffocation after tear gas was fired to stop them from escaping. But the Anti-Coup Alliance have disputed this version of affairs. Al-Jazeera has reported a statement, which says:

The true account is not out yet, we have received three contradictory statements.

On Sunday the Anti-Coup Alliance said they had “obtained evidence of the assassination of anti-coup detainees in a truck transferring them to Abu Zaabal prison.”

In this morning’s conference, the Anti-Coup Alliance are reported to have said:

We approached the chief attorney and requested a commission be formed and as we speak, the chief prosecutor has not taken any steps.

3.26pm BST

A bit more on Mubarak, courtesy of Reuters:

The former president’s trial has continued despite the army intervention against Islamist rule but, perhaps tellingly, the families of those killed in the uprising have ceased to attend the court.

One lawyer who has acted for those families said Mubarak is unlikely to be freed given the political divisions that have shaken the country since the army overthrew Morsi.

Mohammed Rashwan told Reuters that there remained some pending legal suits that could give the judiciary enough latitude to refuse Mubarak’s release. He said:

This is bigger than a legal problem. This is a political problem because Mubarak’s exit at this moment would tip the situation in favour of the Brotherhood. This is not a desirable outcome and one the current regime would not allow.

If Mubarak comes out at this time, the Brotherhood will exploit it to the utmost extent and claim that what is happening in Egypt is a return to the former regime.

3.22pm BST

Egypt's interim deputy prime minister and defence minister, armed forces General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (centre) and its interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, (left) attend a meeting with Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour.
Egypt’s interim deputy prime minister and defence minister, armed forces General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (centre) and its interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, (left) attend a meeting with Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour. Photograph: HANDOUT/REUTERS

3.17pm BST


Iraq’s justice ministry says it has hanged 17 convicted prisoners, all but one for “terrorism”, shrugging off calls from international human rights organisations to reconsider using capital punishment.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ministry said that authorities had executed 15 Iraqis and an Egyptian convicted of terrorism for “carrying out crimes against Iraqi people”.

The last was convicted of another unspecified criminal offence. Two of those hanged were women. It didn’t say when the executions were carried out.

The hangings brought the total number of executions in Iraq this year to 67. (Via AP)

3.10pm BST

In a very bleak blog, Neil Durkin of Amnesty International asks whether Egypt is “teetering on the edge of something worse”.

One basic thing needs to be said very clearly. While there have been attacks on the security forces (including on police stations), the Egyptian security forces have generally behaved with reckless trigger-happiness and on a massive scale. People – men, women and children – have been burned to death in their protest tents. Snipers in black uniforms have shot at people from rooftops, apparently sometimes firing at whoever was in their sights. A hospital and other medical facilities have been attacked as if they were military targets. Doctors have been stopped from getting urgent medical help for gravely wounded people. These are serious crimes from a security apparatus already saturated in the blood of (mostly) peaceful protesters (read some testimonies here).

The perpetrators – whether from the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces (CSF), its Special Forces, or some other wing of the police-army establishment – need to be brought to justice. Amnesty has called for outside intervention, including from Christof Heynes, the UN’s senior specialist on extrajudicial executions, and the scale of events surely warrants this. Plus the authorities have a dire track record of investigating past killings of this kind. With the country looking as if it could to be on the edge of something even worse – a descent into street fighting and martial law?, a “new dark age” of repressive military dictatorship?, a civil war? – this is surely the time for outside experts to try to avert the worst and undo some of the damage.

3.03pm BST

A very interesting tweet from the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.

#Saudi reportedly ready with other Arab nations to increase $ to #Egypt if western nations cut aid over crackdown

— Frank Gardner (@FrankRGardner) August 19, 2013

2.55pm BST

One of the odder consequences of the unrest comes courtesy of the Times of Israel, which reports that several Egyptian television channels have decided to boycott popular Turkish dramas and soap operas after Turkey’s prime minister called for Egypt’s military leaders to be tried for their role in the ongoing violence.

Tarek Nour, who owns the Al-Kahera Wal Nas television channel, told Aal-Arabiya that the financial loss that his station would likely suffer for the boycott was a price worth paying to protest what he called Turkey’s “narrow-minded” view of Egyptian events.

As most Turkish soap operas are privately produced, the boycott is considered unlikely to affect the government directly, but Nour said that hopefully the move would nevertheless apply pressure to Ankara.

2.41pm BST

Israel is quietly and carefully watching the turmoil in Egypt while maintaining close contacts with the Egyptian military amid concerns that the escalating crisis could weaken their common battle against Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula, reports AP.

As the week’s death toll in Egypt rises, this alliance has put Israel in a delicate position. Wary of being seen as taking sides in the Egyptian military’s standoff against Islamist supporters of the ousted president, Israel also needs the Egyptian army to maintain quiet along their shared border and to preserve a historic peace treaty.

The 1979 peace treaty, Israel’s first with an Arab country, has been a cornerstone of regional security for three decades. It has allowed Israel to divert resources to volatile fronts with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. For Egypt, it opened the way to billions of dollars in US military aid.

Although diplomatic relations have never been close, the two militaries have had a good working relationship. These ties have only strengthened since longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted two and a half years ago. With both armies battling extremist Jihadi groups in the Sinai Peninsula, near the Israeli border, Israeli security officials often say that relations with their Egyptian counterparts are stronger than ever.

With so much at stake, Israel has remained quiet since the Egyptian military ousted Mubarak’s Islamist successor, Mohammed Morsi, last month.

Israel has not commented on this week’s bloodshed, in which the Egyptian troops killed hundreds of Morsi’s supporters who were rallying against the coup and demanding that he be reinstated.

Giora Eiland, a former chairman of Israel’s National Security Council, said:

Israel does not have to support the (Egyptian) regime, especially not publicly. It is not our place to defend all the measures taken, this is not our business.

At the same time, Eiland suggested the international condemnations of the Egyptian military’s actions have been excessive. He said Israeli and Western interests were “much closer” to the interests of Egypt’s military leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and his secular allies.

Even if we don’t share the same values, we can share the same interests. The Israeli interest is quite clear. We want a stable regime in Egypt.

Updated at 2.55pm BST

2.35pm BST

A Palestinian protester carries a placard during a rally in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, in Gaza City on Monday. Photograph: Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Corbis
A Palestinian protester carries a placard during a rally in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, in Gaza City on Monday. Photograph: Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Corbis

1 thought on “| Egypt: Troops committed ‘mass unlawful killings’, watchdog says – live!

  1. Pingback: | HRW + Anti-coup Egypt: Security forces used excessive lethal force! | | truthaholics

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