As the five-year anniversary of Egypt’s Rabaa massacre comes Tuesday, some human rights groups say the country has not done enough to address the human rights issues demonstrated in the killing.
The Rabaa massacre was an attack in Cairo on supporters of ex-President Mohamed Morsi who were conducting a sit-in in the nation’s capital. A month earlier, Morsi had been ousted in a military coup.
On July 3, 2013, current general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi led the coup against Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected civilian president. According to the Human Rights Watch, 817 civilians were confirmed killed, but it is likely that at least a thousand died.
"The Egyptian authorities’ repeated failure to respect the rights of protesters, and their failure to hold anyone accountable for mass murders, has contributed to an environment in which the security forces feel empowered to violate human rights with absolute impunity," Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns director for Amnesty International, said in a statement.
The Egyptian government is currently conducting a mass trial against 739 people involved in the protest, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood — a Morsi-allied group since banned in the country — and journalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as "Shawkan." The charges range from murder to "illegal gathering."
"My brother is being held without charges in prison," Zeid's brother, Mohamed, told Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr. "He was detained during the dispersal of Rabea, and his detention has been renewed since then. My brother never held a gun. He was simply doing his job."
In July, an Egyptian court referred 75 of the defendants for a death sentence, requiring approval from the country’s highest Islamic law official, grand mufti Shawki Allam. Their sentences are currently subject to an appeal. Zeid was not among those sentenced.
In a statement, Amnesty International alleged that prosecutors had "failed to submit evidence establishing the individual responsibility" for individual defendants.
"This can only be described as a parody of justice. It casts a dark shadow over the integrity of Egypt's entire system of justice and makes a mockery of due process," Bounaim said.
The Egyptian parliament passed a law granting immunity to members of the nation’s armed forces selected by el-Sissi for actions undertaken between July 3, 2013, to Jan. 10, 2016, including the Rabaa massacre.
"It seems that fostering an environment of impunity and a disrespect for international laws, the Egyptian constitution and the basic tenants of justice, are the objective," Bounaim said.