New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed fear that the Egyptian government will attempt to cover up attacks against Coptic Christians during an outburst of violence on Oct. 9.
HRW has asked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt’s military rulers, to transfer investigation from the military to a fully independent and impartial investigatory body.
The violence began when about 1,000 Christian protesters convened a sit-in outside the state television building. The demonstrations were held in order to protest the recent attacks by Muslims on St. George Coptic Orthodox church, which is currently under construction, some 621 miles to the south of Cairo.
The violence left at least 26 people dead and hundreds of others injured.
Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, which comprises about 10 percent of the population, has long suffered discrimination at the hands of its mostly Muslim population.
Human Rights Watch reportedly interviewed individuals who participated in the demonstration who told of armored personnel vehicles which drove into crowd of protesters injuring and killing those in its path. Many described the military response as disproportionate.
Gen. Adel al-Morsi, head of Egypt's military justice system, pledged in October that there would be thorough investigation of the bloody night of violence.
An Oct. 12 news conference, during which members of the military issued denials of their participation in the evening’s horrible melee, indicated to HRW just why the military’s involvement in the investigation would only compromise its findings.
At the news conference cited by the human rights organization, Generals Mahmoud Hegazy and Adel Emara reportedly issued the military’s narrative of what occurred that evening, which involved absolving soldiers of any wrongdoing.
Emara reportedly insisted, "The armed forces would never and have never opened fire on the people."
He then went on to offer a contradictory account of events: "The soldiers driving armored vehicles were trying to avoid protesters, who were throwing stones and Molotov cocktail bombs at them."
According to HSW, "Consistent and credible witness testimony, as well as independent media and video footage, contradict the military’s version of events."