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All you want to know about Egypt’s silence on 2013 murder of 817 protesters in one day

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Egyptian authorities have failed to investigate or prosecute a single member of the security forces five years after their systematic and widespread killing of largely peaceful protesters in Rab’a Square in Cairo, Human Rights Watch said.

Hundreds of protesters have been convicted under unfair charges in mass trials stemming from the protests.

Security forces killed at least 817 protesters within a few hours on August 14, 2013, as they violently dispersed the sit-in at Rab’a al-Adawiya, the main gathering of protesters demanding the reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsy, whom the army overthrew and arrested on July 3, 2013.

The comprehensive failure to investigate the largest mass killings in Egypt’s modern history, which probably amounts to crimes against humanity, reinforces the urgent need for an international inquiry.

Egypt recently issued a law to “immunize” senior military officers from being questioned for potential violations following Morsy’s ouster.

“Five years on from the Rab’a massacre, the only response from authorities has been to try to insulate those responsible for these crimes from justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The response from Egypt’s allies to the crimes at Rab’a and to the lack of justice for the victims has been complete silence.”

In August 2014, Human Rights Watch released the findings of a year-long investigation into the Rab’a Massacre, its aftermath, and other incidents of mass killings of protesters, based on interviews with over 200 witnesses, on-site investigations immediately after the attacks began, and a review of hours of video footage, physical evidence, and statements by public officials.

Human Rights Watch concluded based on this evidence that “the killings not only constituted serious violations of international human rights law, but likely amounted to crimes against humanity, given both their widespread and systematic nature, and the evidence suggesting the killings were part of a policy.”

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On July 26, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved Law No.161 of 2018 on the “treatment of the armed forces’ senior commanders,” which empowers the president to grant military commanders ministerial status and “diplomatic impunity” when traveling outside the country to shield them from accountability.

The law also grants these officers “immunity” from prosecution or questioning for any event between July 3, 2013, and January 2016, unless the Supreme Council of Armed Forces gives permission.

Existing Egyptian law only allows military prosecutors, who are part of the Defense Ministry, to pursue investigations against current or former army officers, adding another layer of local impunity for military staff.

The Egyptian army overthrew former President Morsy on the heels of mass anti-government protests on June 30, 2013. Morsy supporters responded with protests throughout Egypt and gathered in two main squares in Cairo, Rab’a and al-Nahda. Human Rights Watch documented in detail six incidents in which security forces unlawfully opened fire on masses of largely peaceful protesters, between July 3 and August 16. At least 1,185 people died.

Despite generally exonerating security forces, several official statements and reports accused the police of using excessive force. The prime minister who supervised the dispersal, Hazem al-Beblawy, said in response to the 2014 Human Rights Watch report that “anyone who committed a mistake … should be investigated.”

On December 13, 2013, interim President Adly Mansour established a fact-finding committee to collect “information and evidence” on the events that accompanied the June 30 protests. The committee, which included law professors and former government executives, lacked any judicial powers.

The committee released an executive summary on November 26, 2014, in which it largely blamed protest leaders for the casualties in Rab’a for allowing arms inside the protest, but also admitted that security forces failed to target only people who were armed. The committee also found fault with the unarmed protesters, because they remained at the sit-in knowing that some protesters were armed. The full report is yet to be made public.

On March 6, 2014, Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) released a report on the Rab’a dispersal saying that some protesters were armed and resisted security forces, which compelled them to use lethal force. However, the report also said that there was a “disproportionate response” and “excessive use of force by security forces,” and that security forces failed to maintain a safe exit for protesters willing to leave or to provide medical aid for the wounded.

Both the committee and the NCHR demanded that victims who “did not participate in violence” be compensated. The NCHR also called for an independent judicial investigation.

On July 28, 2018, following an unfair mass trial, the terrorism chamber in the South Cairo Criminal Court issued preliminary death sentences for 75 defendants in the Rab’a dispersal case. Over 739 defendants, roughly half of them in custody, have been tried in the case. The final verdict is due on September 8. Defendants face charges of premeditated murder, attacking citizens, resisting authorities, destroying public property, and possessing firearms and Molotov cocktails.

Defendants include protesters, Muslim Brotherhood leaders, journalists, and children. Several members of security forces who participated in the violent dispersal were called as witnesses, yet prosecutors did not question any of them on excessive use of force or the deliberate or indiscriminate killing of unarmed protesters.

On January 9, 2018, the Giza Criminal Court for major offenses sentenced 23 protesters to life in prison, 223 to 15 years in prison, and 22 others to 3 years in prison, while 109 were acquitted in the case stemming from al-Nahda Square sit-in dispersal. The defendants faced charges similar to those in the Rab’a sit-in case. No member of the security forces involved was questioned.

On September 18, 2017, a criminal court held in Wadi al-Natroun prison issued the verdict in the case stemming from dispersing pro-Morsy protesters at al-Fath Mosque in Cairo two days after the Raba’ dispersal. The court issued prison sentences that ranged from three years to life in prison against 335 defendants, while acquitting 52. Among those found not guilty was an Irish citizen, Ibrahim Halawa, and three of his sisters.

In addition to the failure to investigate security forces’ mass killings, the authorities failed to meet requirements of article 241 of the Egyptian Constitution that required issuing a transitional justice law during the first parliamentary session in 2016. The article says that the law should guarantee “disclosure of truth, accountability, proposals for national reconciliation frameworks, and compensation for victims in accordance with international standards.”

“Without justice, Rab’a remains an open wound. Those responsible for the mass killings of protesters shouldn’t count on being able to shield themselves from accountability forever,” Whitson added.

Politics

Nigeria 2027: Opposition party chieftain Atiku vows to support Obi if …

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In Nigeria, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has hinted that he would support the candidacy of another opposition leader, Peter Obi, in 2027 if the PDP decided that it was the South-East’s turn.

“I have said repeatedly and I even said it before the 2023 general elections that if the PDP decides to zone the presidential ticket to the South or South-East specifically, I won’t contest it. As long as it’s the decision of the party, I will abide by it. But I contested the 2023 presidential ticket because it was thrown open to all members of the party.

“If the party decides that it’s the turn of the South-East and Peter Obi is chosen, I won’t hesitate to support him,” Atiku declared in a recent interview with BBC Hausa Service.

Responding to questions following his meeting with Obi earlier this week, Atiku said, “It’s just a normal friendly meeting that we often have, particularly among us in the opposition parties. Such meetings are healthy for Nigeria’s democracy and in the country’s interest.”

On whether this will bring about a merger, he said, “Yes, it’s very much possible. We can merge to achieve a common goal. So, it’s possible, and nothing can stop it if we wish to achieve that.”

The former Vice President, who denied that the choice of presidential candidate might frustrate the possibility of likely political coalition stressed, “That’s not true. That challenge will not arise. I can tell you that the choice of who will fly the flag of the party won’t be an issue.”

Atiku responded, “Yes, we can’t keep quiet and watch things go wrong,” when asked whether he was still involved in politics. We are dedicated to improving Nigeria because we know that people are suffering.

“It means you are not tired of the politics of Nigeria? Not at all. I am still in active politics in Nigeria, at least, as long as God permits.

“My age doesn’t stop the young ones from testing their fate. Everybody, irrespective of age, is allowed to aspire to be anybody in the society, politically or otherwise.”

On his 2027 Presidential ambition, Atiku revealed “That would depend on the decision of my party. I can’t make any categorical statement on that. The party must decide on the way to go in the next election.

“Until that time comes. Let’s just wait and see how it will turn out.

“It must not be interpreted like that. I must not be eyeing elections to have meetings with political friends and associates. Currently, we are practising democracy in this country which we fought for with our blood.”

In 2019, former APC President Muhammadu Buhari beat Atiku and Obi running jointly on the PDP platform. But Obi, who was Atiku’s running partner in 2019, defected from the PDP to run for president of the Labour Party in 2023 because of internal strife.

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Senegal: PM Sonko condemns French military bases on territory

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Senegal’s Prime Minister, Ousmane Sonko, in a detailed speech on Friday, touched a range of national issues, including the euro-backed CFA franc, oil and gas transactions, and LGBTQ rights.

Firebrand Sonko, who came to prominence in March after his hand-picked presidential candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, won a resounding victory also stressed the potential of closing French military posts in the West African nation.

“More than 60 years after our independence … we must question the reasons why the French army for example still benefits from several military bases in our country and the impact of this presence on our national sovereignty and our strategic autonomy,” Sonko said at a joint conference with the French left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon in the capital Dakar.

“I reiterate here the desire of Senegal to have its own control, which is incompatible with the lasting presence of foreign military bases in Senegal … Many countries have promised defence agreements, but this does not justify the fact that a third of the Dakar region is now occupied by foreign garrisons.”

After driving out French forces, neighbours Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger looked to Russia for assistance in quelling Islamist insurgencies on their own. A commercial is presently playing on the video player. With a mouse or keyboard, you can skip the advertisement in five seconds.

They have also established their alliance with Sahel states and distanced themselves from the West African group ECOWAS, which denounced their coups. However, Sonko spoke kindly to them on Thursday.

“We will not let go of our brothers in the Sahel and we will do everything necessary to strengthen the ties,” he said.

Additionally, he stated that in order to enhance export competitiveness and to absorb shocks, Senegal, which shares the euro-linked CFA franc currency with seven other nations, would prefer a flexible currency pegged to at least two currencies.

Faye had originally promised to do away with the CFA franc during the election campaign, but he later changed his mind. Renegotiation of oil and gas contracts in Senegal, where production is scheduled to start this year, was one of Sonko’s repeated promises.

In addition, he urged Western nations to approach social issues like gender equality and LGBTQ rights with “restraint, respect, reciprocity, and tolerance.” He claimed that although homosexuality had always existed in Senegal, it had always been “managed” by the nation under its sociocultural circumstances and that this would continue.

“Senegal and many other African countries cannot accept any truth in legalising this phenomenon.”

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