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'Unlawful killings’ in Egypt disguised as ‘shootouts': HRW

Pattern of unlawful killings in Egypt being disguised as 'shootouts': HRW
2 min read
07 September, 2021
An analysis of nine alleged 'shootouts' involving Egyptian security forces and alleged 'terrorists' reveals a 'clear pattern of unlawful killings', Human Rights Watch has reported.
Egypt's President al-Sisi said in June 2015 that normal courts and laws were not enough to tackle violent groups, and called for "swift justice" [source: Getty]

Human Rights Watch accused Egyptian authorities of "a clear pattern of unlawful killings", in a new report that claims security forces are framing shoot-outs with militants as a cover-up for the extrajudicial killing of detained persons.  

The watchdog’s 101-page report, published Monday, examined the execution of 14 individuals in nine alleged "shootouts" with Egyptian security forces - out of a total of 755 men reportedly killed in 143 incidents between January 2015 and December 2020.  

Evidence collected by HRW suggests the victims posed no threat to security forces at the time of their death and that no "serious or meaningful investigation" has been conducted into any of the alleged executions.

"Egyptian security forces have for years carried out extrajudicial executions, claiming that the men had been killed in shootouts," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

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Statements by Egypt’s interior ministry provide only "rudimentary information" on the executions, typically claiming that security forces were approaching a "terrorist hideout" when the victims opened fire first. 

No suspects were arrested in the nine incidents investigated by HRW, and there were no casualties among security forces. 

An analysis of photographs published by Egypt's interior ministry indicates that the hands of three victims were cuffed before their death and in one photo it is suspected that a gun was planted next to a dead body.  

Eight of the victims’ families said they witnessed signs of abuse on their relative’s bodies after the "shootouts", while some families haven't been able to collect the bodies of their loved ones at all, according to HRW. 

Most only learned about their relative's death through the media, and all but one of the 14 families had to actively seek information about the killings, often facing intimidation and harassment by Egypt security services. 

The watchdog is calling on Cairo's international partners - including the UK and US - to halt weapons transfers to Egypt and impose targeted sanctions against security agencies and officials deemed responsible. 

"It's overdue for countries providing weapons and security assistance to Egypt to halt such assistance and distance themselves from Egypt's appalling abuses," said Stork. 

Harsh crackdowns, violence, and a climate of impunity have marked President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi rule of Egypt, resulting in what HRW described as "one of the worst prolonged human rights crises in the country’s recent history".