Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s security forces have killed 17 pro-Muslim Brotherhood persons in the latest incident of extra judicial killing.
The security forces claimed that the people killed were involved in a car bomb near the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that killed more than 20 people in Cairo on August 4.
However, how the 17 persons were killed raised questions about the quick security forces operation.
Al-Monitor reported that four days after the Cairo bombing, on August 8, Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it had killed 17 suspects from the Hasm movement, which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to the Interior Ministry, security forces first conducted a raid in the Fayoum governorate, about 90 kilometers from Cairo, on hideouts used by fugitives from other terrorist cases whom the Interior Ministry had linked to the NCI incident. Clashes broke out during the raid, killing eight suspects.
Security forces then killed seven accused terrorists in a raid on a second group of suspects in Shorouk city, about 20 kilometers from the capital.
During the raid, two other suspects were killed when one attempted to hide in the house of another suspect to avoid arrest in Helwan city, south of Cairo.
An informed security source told Al-Monitor that after the explosion, the Ministry of Interior “started the criminal investigation process until it reached the identity of one of the suspects.”
The source said, “The suspect was then arrested from his home in the suburbs of Cairo and gave away the names of those involved in the NCI bombing.”
Abdul Ghaffar Salehin, a Brotherhood leader who fled to Turkey in 2015, told Al-Monitor over the phone that the Ministry of Interior eliminated the 17 suspects via extrajudicial killing.
He said it is unreasonable for 17 people to die in confrontations with security services without any police officer getting a scratch, especially since both sides usually suffer losses as a result of exchanging fire.
Salehin added, “This is not the first time the Ministry of Interior has eliminated suspects whose innocence could be proven after investigation. The same happened with the killing of Brotherhood lawyer Nasser al-Houfi, whose house was raided. He was killed along with Brotherhood leaders without even resisting.
Houfi and nine other Brotherhood leaders were killed inside his home in 6th of October City in July 2015, while the Interior Ministry said the killing was the result of an exchange of fire between security forces and Brotherhood members. But the Muslim Brotherhood denied any clashes.
“It makes no sense to identify all suspects and locate them in less than two days, and still, the security services killed them in cold blood,” Salehin said.
465 eliminated in extra-judicial killing
At least 465 men killed in what the Egyptian Interior Ministry said were shootouts with its forces over a period of three and a half years, a Reuters analysis of Interior Ministry statements has found in April this year.
The announcements reviewed by Reuters appeared on the ministry’s social media or were published by the state news agency.
The extrajudicial killings began in the summer of 2015.
In June that year, militants had assassinated Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, an ally of President Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. US-client Al-Sisi responded with a sweeping anti-terrorism law that shielded the police and military from prosecution for the proportionate use of force.
Human rights groups say it was the start of a brutal crackdown. A researcher at an Egyptian organization that documents human rights abuses said police embarked on a spate of “extra judicial killings knowing that no one will hold them accountable”.
In 108 incidents involving 471 men, only six suspects survived, according to Interior Ministry statements from July 1, 2015, to the end of 2018. That represents a kill ratio of 98.7%. Five members of the security forces were killed, the statements said. Thirty-seven were injured.
The US State Department’s latest annual report on human rights in Egypt, released in March, said abuses included arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents, forced disappearances and torture. The United States, nevertheless, has unfrozen $195 million in military aid to Egypt which it had previously withheld in part because of concerns over Egypt’s human rights record. US officials reason that security cooperation with Egypt is important to US national security.
Kate Vigneswaran, the senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists’ Middle East and North Africa program, said the killings described by Reuters could “constitute extrajudicial executions, a serious crime under international law.” Evidence that victims were shot at close range would “indicate that the use of lethal force was not a response to a legitimate threat, but rather premeditated and deliberate conduct by the security forces to execute individuals outside the protection of the law.”
Kevin Jon Heller, associate professor of public international law at Amsterdam University, said if the victims were civilians, “this would be the classic crime against humanity of murder: killing civilians as part of a widespread or systematic attack.”
From July 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2018, the Interior Ministry issued statements reporting the deaths of 465 men, almost all of them suspected militants, in gun battles with its forces. That compared with just five such deaths in the first half of 2015, before the murder of Barakat, the chief prosecutor, according to Reuters.
The Interior Ministry statements were strikingly similar. In every instance, the ministry said its forces approached or raided the hideout of the terrorists or criminals having secured an arrest warrant or taken “all legal measures.” The terrorists or criminals opened fire, and security forces responded.
Most of the dead men were in their 20s; the youngest was 16, the oldest was 61. The Interior Ministry classified 320 of the slain men as terrorists and 28 as criminals or drug dealers.
Reuters analysis of the Interior Ministry statements showed that deadly shootouts often followed an attack by militants. For example, in December 2018, a day after the deadly bombing of a Vietnamese tourist bus in Giza, the ministry announced that its forces had killed 40 people in three separate incidents.
Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer and founder of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said Egypt was trapped in a lethal cycle of extrajudicial killings and revenge attacks. “The more extrajudicial killings take place, the more there will be desire for revenge,” he said.