On Sunday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Egypt's justice minister of calling for the "mass killing" of members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is already facing a brutal police crackdown.
Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind said, in a January 28 interview with satellite television channel Sada al-Balad, that he "would not be satisfied until 10,000 Brotherhood members were killed for every martyr" from the armed forces and the police. "That a high government official charged with overseeing the rule of law would go on TV and appear to encourage the slaughter of political opponents shows how some members of the Egyptian government have abandoned any pretense of justice," HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson said. "The fact that Egyptian security forces have already committed mass killings of Brotherhood supporters, while judges have sentenced hundreds of others to death in mass trials, means that Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind's threat is very real," she added.
HRW urged Egypt's putative leader, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to condemn the remarks, saying they "add to a national climate already dominated by anti-Brotherhood rhetoric from state officials and prominent media figures." El-Sissi, who as army chief led the coup that ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, has overseen a police crackdown that has killed hundreds of those supporting Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
HRW says that on August 14, 2013, police killed at least 817 pro-Morsi demonstrators in central Cairo in what "likely amounted to crimes against humanity." Since then, thousands of Morsi supporters have also been jailed, while many, including the ousted president, have been sentenced to death or lengthy jail terms.
The Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest political opposition force for decades, has been blacklisted as a "terrorist group" and had assets confiscated. The authorities accuse the Brotherhood of carrying out attacks on security forces. Experts and rights group say that el-Sissi has installed a regime that is more repressive than that of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak who was ousted in 2011, with a police crackdown targeting not just Morsi supporters, but also secularists and leftist activists.
The Muslim Brotherhood was delivering aid, social services and education facilities across the country implementing a moderate Islamist ideology, seeking to end poverty, impoverishment, foreign intervention, unemployment, social problems and corruption. Since the first day of its establishment in 1928 by Hassan al-Benna, who was killed in 1949, the group was non-violent and distanced itself from radical groups that adopted the Salafist and Wahhabi understanding of Islam, such as al-Qaida. The Muslim Brotherhood was familiar with politics, as it struggled to win seats in parliament in the Mubarak era. The group entered parliamentary elections and presidential elections following the 2011 Arab Spring. Morsi's popularity, reliability and statements brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, after he received more than 50 percent of the votes.
After el-Sissi took power, the international community has only weakly voiced concern against the human rights violations, mass death sentences, arbitrary detentions and the suppression of all opposition groups by the el-Sissi rule, despite repeated warnings by human rights groups.