On 27 July at least 72 supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement were shot dead in Egypt during clashes with security forces. These events mark the second mass killing in three weeks, after security forces opened fire at a Cairo sit-in on 8 July, resulting in the deaths of at least 60 pro-Morsi demonstrators. Since Morsi’s ousting on 3 July, protest clashes have claimed more than 150 lives and left more than 1,500 people injured.
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect condemns the reckless use of live ammunition by the security forces to suppress protests, as well as the use of hate speech and violence by some demonstrators. Such acts have contributed to a political crisis that now threatens the security of all Egyptians and increases the risk of conflict leading to the commission of mass atrocity crimes.
At the 2005 United Nations (UN) World Summit, Egypt agreed that all states have a Responsibility to Protect their populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Egypt has since reiterated its support for this principle at the UN. The transitional authorities in Egypt now face a critical test to back these words with action.
The authorities in Egypt must uphold their Responsibility to Protect all Egyptians, regardless of religious identity or political affiliation. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect calls upon the Egyptian security forces to show restraint in confronting legitimate protests. Protesters who incite or participate in violence should be dealt with in accordance with acceptable international legal standards.
In support of the recommendations made on 28 July by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, we urge the authorities to conduct a credible, independent investigation into recent large-scale killings. If it is determined that some sections of the security forces used unnecessary deadly force, then they must be held accountable.
Two years ago the world drew inspiration from Egypt’s revolution. Millions throughout the Middle East, North Africa and around the globe will judge Egypt’s current leaders by their adherence to international human rights standards and the protection of civilians.