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US 'failing to challenge Egypt rights abuses' 10 years since Rabaa massacre

A decade on from the killing of over 900 pro-democracy protesters, new report urges Washington to impose conditions on Egyptian military support
A handcuffed protester sits on the ground as Egyptian security forces move in to disperse supporters during the Rabaa massacre in Cairo, Egypt on 14 August 2013 (AFP)
A handcuffed protester sits on the ground as Egyptian security forces move in to disperse supporters during the Rabaa massacre in Cairo, Egypt on 14 August 2013 (AFP)

The United States is not doing enough to support human rights in Egypt since the killing of over 900 pro-democracy protesters a decade ago in Cairo, according to a new report

"Since the Rabaa Massacre, A Decade of US Failure on Egypt Human Rights" was published by Human Rights First on Friday, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the killings.

Following the military coup which deposed Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in June 2013, protesters launched a mass sit-in at the Rabaa and al-Nahda squares in the Egyptian capital.

Around 85,000 protesters camped at the sites for six weeks, until they were violently dispersed by Egyptian security forces on 14 August.

Troops in armoured vehicles and bulldozers killed at least 900 people, in what came to be known as the Rabaa massacre.

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Since then, coup leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ruled Egypt with an iron first, with an estimated 65,000 political prisoners languishing behind bars. 

The US and several of Egypt's other allies have been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses committed since the coup. 

"As they struggle to stay out of prison for their defence of human rights, Egyptian activists know that the United States is not keeping its promise to support human rights in Egypt," said Brian Dooley, senior adviser at Human Rights First. 

US 'legacy of ignoring abuses'

Dooley added that the US had a "legacy" of ignoring rights abuses in allied countries, which hadn't changed under President Joe Biden.

"Contrary to campaign promises, the Biden administration has not meaningfully changed the US approach of providing military and political support to President Sisi's brutal and dictatorial regime," he said. 

Cairo is the second-largest recipient of US military aid, behind only Israel, receiving $1.3bn annually. 

One of the interviewees in the report, Egyptian-American rights defender Aya Hijazi, was arrested along with others in her team at Egyptian NGO Belady during the Rabaa massacre. 

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She was imprisoned for three years, until eventually being released following intervention from former President Donald Trump's administration.

She said that since the massacre, "none of the US institutions - the executive, the legislature, even the media - have done enough". 

"I read somewhere the numbers are equivalent to the Tiananmen Square massacre and yet within American common knowledge almost everyone knows about Tiananmen Square and almost no one knows about Rabaa," Hijazi said, referring to pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989. 

The report calls on the US government to impose human rights conditions on security assistance and arms sales to Egypt, and impose financial and visa sanctions on Egyptian officials involved in human rights abuse and corruption.

It also urges Washington to publicly demand that the perpetrators of the Rabaa massacre are brought to justice, and to publicly name activists arbitrarily detained and request to visit them in prison. 

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