Egypt: impunity prevails two years after Rabaa’ and Nahda Square killings

Today, on the second anniversary of the killing by the armed and security forces of more than 1,000 individuals during the dispersal of the Rabaa’ Al-Adawyia and Al Nahda Square sit-ins, the ICJ calls on the Egyptian authorities to end its policy of impunity for serious human rights violations.

The authorities must conduct thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigations into protestor deaths with a view to holding to account all those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights violations committed in the course of the demonstrations, the ICJ says.

“It is a measure of the total disregard for victims’ rights and the absolute impunity of the armed and security services that in the two years that have passed, no effective investigations in line with international standards have taken place and not a single person has been brought to justice for the mass killings of protestors,” said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The victims of human rights violations and their family members have been left without any effective remedies or reparation, including an acknowledgment by the Egyptian authorities of their responsibility for the hundreds of killings and injuries that day,” he added.

Although fact-finding initiatives were conducted by Egypt’s quasi-governmental National Human Rights Council and by a government-appointed commission, the ICJ considers these investigations to be deeply flawed and ineffective.

The ICJ says both had inadequate access to first hand or physical evidence from the scene, because they did not begin their work until weeks or months after the events took place; lacked the ability to compel State authorities to testify and provide evidence; failed to document the full extent of human rights violations that took place; and neither led to any form of criminal investigation, much less prosecution of those responsible for these violations.

Further, while the government-appointed commission found that over 700 people had been killed during the Rabaa’ and Nahda dispersals, the shambolic report it issued dedicated just 9 pages to these two dispersals, concluding summarily and without substantiation that the police had been justified in violently dispersing the protest and blaming primarily the organizers of the sit-ins as well as the protestors for the high death toll.

There are credible allegations that in dispersing these demonstrations the armed and security forces unlawfully resorted to excessive and disproportionate use of force, the ICJ adds.

“By turning a blind eye to gross human rights violations committed by the armed and security forces, and by shielding their members from any form of criminal accountability, the Egyptian authorities are fostering the structural impunity that prevails in Egypt instead of combatting it,” said Benarbia.

“To meet their obligations under international law, the authorities must dismantle such policies and practices and establish the truth about the sit-ins’ dispersal,” he added.

Under international law lethal force may never be used unless strictly necessary to protect life.

States are obliged to provide access to an effective remedy and reparation to victims of human right violations.

They are also required to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations, with a view to holding criminally accountable persons responsible for serious human rights violations, particularly those involving a denial of the right to life.


Alice Goodenough, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +44 7815 570 834; e: alice.goodenough(a)

Nader Diab, Associate Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41 229 793 804; e: nader.diab(a)

Egypt-Impunity Rabaa Sq-News-Press releases-2015-ARA (full text in pdf, ARABIC)

NewsPress releases