Due to the large number of participants and children in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in, even tear gas can cause deaths from trampling and suffocation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Egypt Director Heba Morayef said in a video released on Tuesday.
Morayef said that over the past two years every time the police attempt to disperse a sit-in unnecessary lethal force is used that leads to the deaths of unarmed protesters.
“Even when the Ministry of Interior swears that it will only use birdshot, we’ve seen them use live gun-fire again and again,” she said.
She stressed that HRW opposes a forcible dispersal of the sit-ins.
Supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi are wearing helmets and carrying sticks because they’re expecting their sit-in to be dispersed, Morayef said. She added that the government issues statements on a daily basis about dispersing the pro-Morsi sit-ins.
“All it takes is a stone for the violence to escalate,” Morayef said.
HRW released a statement on Friday calling on the government to halt “any immediate plans to disperse the two Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo by force.” The statement asked the government to “deal peacefully with any problems arising.”
HRW said in the past month at least 137 people have been killed due to the security forces’ use of excessive force.
HRW Deputy Middle East Director Nadim Houry said in the statement the government needs to protect the right to peacefully assemble.
Under international law a peaceful assembly cannot be deemed violent due to a few acts of violence by some participants, the statement said.
“The authorities may not punish peaceful protesters for crimes committed by individual protesters or for possession of unlicensed weapons by some protesters,” HRW stated.
The rights organisation urged the government to ensure the minimum loss of life or harm when dealing with a protest.
Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square are both heavily populated with women, children and men, according to HRW.