The Egyptian authorities may be right in arguing that they had exercised utmost restraint for the past three months before trying to disrupt the 3,500 protesters and that most deaths took place due to a stampede, and not because of use of force by the police. Also, there may be truth in the argument that some in the crowd had 'resorted to incitement and attacks' against the police.
Yet these explanations do not justify the tragic loss of life. Even if the hundreds of protesters sitting before the UNHCR office were getting dangerously desperate and the UN officials had sought intervention of the Egyptian police, the authorities could and should have resolved the issue through negotiations with the protest leaders. Nothing can justify such excessive use of force. That the issue has been hanging fire for the past many months and the UN agency and countries concerned didn't do anything to deal with the matter is also disturbing. The Egyptian authorities would do well to investigate the whole episode, as demanded by Egyptian rights groups and the Human Rights Watch. And those found guilty must be made to account for their actions.
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