Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Amnesty International urges Egyptian authorities to investigate recent attacks on Copts

Amnesty International issued a detailed report into the attacks targeting Coptic Christian communities in in Egypt in August in the wake of the dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo. It reveals the extent of the failure of the security services to protect the minority group, said Amnesty International.
More than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches were seriously damaged across the country in the aftermath of events on 14 August. Amnesty International visited sites of the sectarian violence in Al-Minya, Fayoum and Greater Cairo to gather evidence from eyewitnesses, local officials and religious leaders.
Historical and religious relics were desecrated. Graffiti left scrawled upon walls in the aftermath of the attacks included slogans such as “Morsi is my President” and “They killed our brothers during prayer”.
“Given the fact that these attacks were in retaliation for the crackdown on pro-Morsi sit-ins, the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood said too little too late, and laid the blame on ‘thugs’ distancing their supporters from the attacks” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “They must condemn their supporters’ actions and urge them to refrain from sectarian attacks and the use of sectarian language.”
In Al-Minya, where most of the attacks occurred, a journalist, Zeinab Ismail, who witnessed scenes of violence, said attackers were armed with machetes and swords.
Amnesty International urges the Egyptian authorities to conduct an impartial, independent investigation into these sectarian attacks, and to take immediate steps to prevent their recurrence. A comprehensive strategy to fight discrimination against religious minorities must be devised and implemented. Discriminatory laws and policies must be repealed.
“Failure to bring to justice those responsible for sectarian attacks sends the message that Copts and other religious minorities are fair game. The authorities must make it absolutely clear that sectarian attacks will not be tolerated,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.“
Any investigation must also examine the role of the security forces. Some incidents lasted for hours and recurred in subsequent days,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “Why were the security forces unable to prevent and put an end to such attacks? For too long the Christians of Egypt have borne the brunt of sectarian violence. This pattern of inaction by the authorities must change.”
The release of Amnesty International’s new briefing coincides with the second anniversary of a bloody crackdown by the armed forces on protesters, outside the state television building known as Maspero in Cairo on 9 October 2011, in which 26 Coptic Christians protesters and a Muslim were killed.

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