Human Rights Watch called on Egypt’s authorities to fulfill their responsibilities in protecting citizens from violent attacks, irrespective of their political affiliations.
In a statement published Tuesday, the rights watchdog said twenty-four people died and hundreds were injured since protests broke out across the country, both against and in support of President Mohamed Morsi, on 30 June.
While it said the injured were mostly anti-Morsi protesters, it also recorded attacks on “on people who appeared to be Islamists.”
HRW attributed mob assaults on individuals to the absence of police, citing violence at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam, Cairo, where eight people were killed, as well as in Assiut, Beni Suef, Fayoum, Mansoura and Alexandria.
“The most striking feature of all the violent incidents in which lives were lost was the absence of security forces, though the attacks were anticipated and in some cases the violence lasted over several hours,” HRW said.
Ahead of mass protests scheduled for 30 June, the Interior Ministry said it would only secure state institutions, but would not protect Muslim Brotherhood headquarters.
The statement mentioned individual cases of violence at the Moqattam headquarters, including a thirteen-year-old boy who was shot in the stomach and a twenty-five-year-old man shot in the head.
According to eyewitnesses, two armored vehicles and one riot police van drove by during the clashes, but did nothing to end the violence, HRW said.
The rights group also recorded cases in Assiut, Fayoum and Alexandria, based on firsthand and witnesses’ accounts.
HRW also cited a video that shows an attack on a man who was presumed to be a Brotherhood member, stripped to his underwear, lying bloodied on the ground, after apparently being dragged through the street.
While the video shows an ambulance arriving, there was no indication that any police were present, the statement read.
An eyewitness also told HRW that a man was beaten by group of young men who thought he was a Brotherhood member outside the Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam. The victim turned out to be someone trying to join the attack on the headquarters, according to the eyewitness.
In Alexandria, two protesters told HRW they witnessed two groups of protesters beating isolated Muslim Brotherhood supporters. They added that there was no police were in the vicinity.
HRW said the police and other security forces failed to deploy sufficient forces in key locations despite anticipation of widespread violence.
It added that “the police and other security forces need to play an impartial role with protecting lives as their top priority.”
“Security forces, including the military when it is acting in a law-enforcement capacity, have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect the right to life and to security, in particular where the security forces can anticipate that an attack will take place,” the statement read.
HRW also cited the sexual assault of at least forty-six women in Tahrir Square, where security forces were also not present. It quoted the group Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, which said several of the women needed medical assistance, with one requiring surgery after being raped with a sharp object.
HRW highlighted the potential for street battles and further violence in light of more protests scheduled, urging security forces to deploy to locations where security is at risk, “while complying with international standards of policing.”
On Monday, a statement from the Armed Forces gave an indication of which path the next days will follow, warning political groups the military would intervene if they do not reach a solution to the ongoing stalemate in Egypt.
Following the statement, pro- and anti-Morsi camps remained defiant, as the National Coalition to Protect Legitimacy, an Islamist alliance, called on people to rally in defense of what it deemed as the current regime’s legitimacy.
[This article originally appeared on Mada Masr.]