Egyptian security forces intentionally killed at least 817 protesters when they violently dispersed an anti-government protest camp in Cairo last August, a Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday found.
"In Rab'a Square, Egyptian security forces carried out one of the world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history," Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director, said in a statement. The report described it as a premeditated attack like that carried out in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989.
The report said that Egypt's police and army "systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds" and that it "likely amounted to crimes against humanity".
The New York-based advocacy group carried out a year-long investigation into the August 14 killing of largely non-violent demonstrators at the Rab'a al-Adawiya sit-in, where supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi gathered after the army seized power in July, 2013. HRW reported that security officials killed at least 817 protestors, though more likely died. The group also found that the massacre was pre-planned by top Egyptian officials, including Egypt's current President, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who at the time led Egypt's security forces.
"This wasn't merely a case of excessive force or poor training," Roth said. "It was a violent crackdown planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. Many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for."
Read the full 180-page report here, and watch HRW's video with first-hand accounts of how the day unfolded.
Egyptian officials have denied any wrongdoing and argued that protestors at the Rab'a sit-in were widely armed and attacked police first. The HRW report, entitled "All According to Plan: The Rab'a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt," also includes investigations into the violent dispersal of five other anti-government protest camps during July and August, 2013.
In the year since Morsi's ouster, Egyptian security officials have carried out a harsh crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members, as well as any other opposition.
On Monday, Egyptian airport officials barred Roth, Sarah Leah Whitson, the head of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, and Omar Shakir, a HRW researcher, from entering Egypt and deported them for "security reasons." The team had been coming to Cairo for the report's release.