A question on the anniversary of Rabaa

A question has been continuously asked since the dispersal of the Rabaa and Al-Nahda squares on 14 August 2013. This question is related to the international silence that surrounded this and the credibility of the West’s promotion of human rights and democracy, especially in light of the continued deterioration of human rights in Egypt. Also given the fact that the country has entered a phase where the authorities are targeting protestors and those against the coup by means of assassination and extrajudicial killings, otherwise known as “physical liquidation”. We have also witnessed an increase in forced disappearance. There are also those who still hope for an official position of support from the West, far from the double standards employed by dominant Western forces in the world order (the US and EU), especially due to the fact there no official has been held accountable nor has there been any indictments in Egypt.

Years after the massacre

Although years have passed since the massacre, the official reactions of international players have not gone past condemnation, denunciation, or the expression of concern. They have not pushed for any real action to be taken on the ground to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Read: Rabaa set a precedent. Even massacres in Rwanda, Sudan and Kenya were not against their own people

On the level of international organisations, the groups issued a series of reports that documented and condemned what happened in Rabaa, Al-Nahda, and the following events until today. These reports were mainly issued by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch

In the summary of its important report issued on 12 August 2014, Human Rights Watch noted that the killings were not only gross violations of international human rights law but also probably amount to crimes against humanity given they were systematic and widespread. The report also noted that the evidence suggests that the killings were part of a policy to use of lethal force against largely unarmed protesters on political grounds. It made recommendations to the UN member states that the Human Rights Council establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate the mass killings of demonstrators since 30 June 2013. It also recommended that all military and law enforcement aid to Egypt be suspended until it adopts measures to end serious human rights violations.

Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva also adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt regarding human rights, which included over 300 recommendations presented to Egypt by 122 countries in order to improve the human rights conditions in the country. Those opposed to the coup considered this to be a major victory at the time for the human rights portfolio in Egypt.

However, since the adoption of these recommendations in November 2014, no real progress has been made in terms of Egyptian human rights. Instead, at them time when the UN Human Rights Council adopted outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt on 20 March 2015, the violations escalated, and Human Rights Watch criticised what is described as the unprecedented and continuous oppression witnessed by Egypt now, especially as the Egyptian government has committed more violations since the universal periodic review in November 2014.

Amnesty International

In its successive reports on Egypt, especially from 2015/2016 to date, Amnesty International has noted that the human rights situation continues to deteriorate as the authorities have arbitrarily imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of forming associations and freedom of peaceful assembly. It also noted that it issued hundreds of unjust death sentences.

Read more: ‘They burned them dead and alive’ says Rabaa field doctor

With regards to impunity, Amnesty International noted the Egyptian authorities’ failure to conduct effective, independent and impartial investigations into most cases of human rights violations, including the repeated use of excessive force by security forces, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of protestors since July 2013.

What question is still being asked?

In the context of the aforementioned information, and years after the massacres of the dispersal of the Rabaa and Al-Nahda squares, there are still some who hope for the support of the international community, led by the West and the US, with regards to the human rights and democracy in Egypt. They also hope that those responsible for the crimes committed are held accountable, as some of those opposed to the coup believe there are shortcomings regarding the human rights issues in three important areas. These areas are documentation, following-up on criminal investigation and lobbying groups. By rectifying these shortcomings, it is possible to reach the prosecution of international officials.


Despite the clarity of the abhorrent human rights situation, the successive condemnations and denunciations, the issued recommendations, documented facts, the escalation of systematic and diverse violations, the killing of thousands and the continued detention of tens of thousands, there is the constant question of the potential support by the international community for true democratic transformation and the credibility of its promotion of human rights. This is given the hopes of some that the international community, led by America and the West (with its international organisations, councils and the international courts which it controls), will champion democracy and human rights in Egypt’s case, as well as in the case of others, despite the double standards on the ground and the West and America’s participation in violating democracy and human rights in various parts of the world, particularly in the Arab region. We will try to provide a clear answer to this in the future.

This article first appeared in Arabic on Arabi21 on 13 August 2017.