Sarah Leah Whitson
Human Rights Watch Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division
A horrifying video has surfaced showing what appear to be Egyptian soldiers executing at least two detained men in North Sinai. Alongside them are the bodies of several other men, lying face down in the ground. The video appeared on Mekameleen, an Egyptian opposition satellite channel based in Turkey, and provides an alternative account to Egyptian army claims that the men were terrorists who died while fighting the military.
Sadly, incidents of grave human rights violations have become par for the course in Egyptian security operations. Just last month, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting the likely extrajudicial killing of at least four – and possibly 10 – men who had been “disappeared” by the government in prior months. Our report exposed the government’s ham-handed efforts to cover up the killings by staging them as the result of a gun battle in their own doctored video, planted weapons and all. Last year, we published a report documenting how Egyptian security forces probably executed nine Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members in their apartment, subsequently claiming they too were killed after engaging in a gun battle with government forces.
The United States and European countries have stood idly by as repression in Egypt has grown worse than it was under former strongman Hosni Mubarak. Silent on human rights, they have tried to lure Egypt into civility with business deals and International Monetary Fund loans. The US even honored President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who displaced Egypt’s first freely elected president in a coup and presides over this repression, with a visit to President Donald Trump’s White House.
The US government has to examine its role in the brutality we see documented in this video, ensuring as it does the smooth annual flow of US$1.6 billion dollars in military assistance to the Egyptian army. The excuse is that it will help Egypt defeat the armed groups in the Sinai, now assembled as a branch of the radical group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and “restore stability.” But this tired formula, grounded in widespread human rights abuses, breeds nothing but instability and more violence.