HRW Calls for Suspending Military Aid to Egypt over Cold-Blooded Executions in Sinai

Human Rights Watch urged suspension of military aid to Egypt after video leaked by an opposition channel that showed troops appearing to carry out cold-blooded executions of as many as eight detainees in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

Human Rights Watch stated that two men in the video had been identified as belonging to a militia that helps the army against ISIS. The group said members of Egyptian military intelligence are shown directing executions before placing rifles next to bodies to depict the dead as militants killed in a raid.

The video was aired on Mekameleen, an Egyptian opposition news channel, which showed Egyptian soldiers executing unarmed detainees in Sinai.

The opposition channel, which broadcast the footage, said that the video was filmed in December 2016 in Sinai.

The three minutes video shows the summary execution of at least three people and other bodies can be seen lying on the ground.

The video shows uniformed soldiers escort a blindfolded man into the field out of military vehicles, place him on his knees, and shoot him multiple times in the head and upper body.

A cameraman can also be seen taking footage of one body. A soldier then appears to remove a gun from next to the body when the cameraman finishes filming.

The victims appear to have their blindfolds removed before being shot.

There is speculation that the summary executions were staged by the soldiers to look as if the deaths had happened in combat.

One soldier can be heard saying repeatedly “not just the head” as another shoots one of the victims.

Human Rights Watch said as many as eight unarmed detainees may have been killed, though only two executions are clear in the video.

It said those two, ages 16 and 19, were arrested in July in the border town of Rafah. The rights group said that it is not clear from the video when the executions took place, but the same victims appeared in official press releases from the Egyptian army in November and December, including the official webpage of the armed forces spokesman.

The HRW cited a network official as saying the killings took place in October or November in a village called al-Tuma, south of Sheikh Zuweid in northern Sinai Peninsula.

In this context, Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, called the killings “outrageous” and said the incident shows Egypt’s counter-terrorism campaign in Sinai “is out of control.”

Stork said,”Egypt’s allies cannot claim ignorance about these deadly abuses.”

Moreover, the Mekameleen video also shows a Facebook post where a picture of one of the victims appeared on an official military page with a gun next to his arm.

A young, visibly distressed man has been questioned by the officers and pulled by his hair, according to the video.

The Egyptian military soldiers asked him if he is a member of the Abu Sanana family, and he responds “No, I swear to God I’m from al-Awabadah”.

Then, they asked him where his grandfather lives and then they dragged him to the side, push him onto the floor and remove his blindfold.

One of the soldiers then shoots him in the head. A second soldier then fires at the body on the ground.

The video ends with a statement released by Egypt’s military after the shootings in which it claimed to have neutralized eight “takfiri terrorists”.

However, concerns raised by the footage echo those highlighted by HRW in relation to the incident it investigated in January.

In a report into that incident, the international right organisation questioned the accuracy of a statement published by the Egyptian interior ministry on 13 January which alleged that 10 ISIS fighters had been killed in a raid by security forces.

HRW said that military and forensic experts it had consulted had doubted the authenticity of video footage of the alleged raid.

Human Rights Watch’s report on extrajudicial killings in Sinai stated,”Security forces may have extrajudicially executed at least four and perhaps as many as 10 men in January 2017. They may have arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared the men and then staged a counter terrorism raid to cover up the killings.”

Relatives of two of the dead men who had seen their bodies in the morgue told HRW that both appeared to have been killed by a shot to the head.

Since the military coup in 2013 against Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian security forces have cracked down on his supporters, killing hundreds and jailing thousands.

Moreover, fighting in North Sinai has left hundreds dead including civilians, security force members, and alleged ISIS fighters. Sinai Province,ISIS affiliated group, has also killed civilians either for alleged collaboration with the authorities or because they were Christians.

However,amid the security campaign, the Egyptian police have been facing accusations of human rights violations, including torture to death, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.