A fact-finding committee set up by the government in Egypt has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters for violence last year that led to the deaths of hundreds of people after former president Mohamed Morsi was deposed from power.
In a report published on Wednesday, the committee examining events during the summer of 2013 blamed supporters of Morsi for 11 incidents of violence during protests.
Thousands of protesters began a sit-in near Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on July 3 last year, following the military’s removal of Morsi after protests against his rule on June 30.
The committee said attacks in August against security personnel by hundreds of protesters camped at the Rabaa al-Adawiya and nearby Nahda sit-ins caused some officers to “lose their focus,” leading to clashes which left a large number of victims.
It said pro-Morsi supporters fired the first shots at Rabaa, and that the first person to die was a policeman.
The resulting security operation left 607 civilians and eight policemen dead, the report said. The Muslim Brotherhood has said the death toll was far higher.
Security forces used bulldozers to uproot the protest camps after the Interior Ministry warned it would deal firmly with protesters acting “irresponsibly”.
The report said the large death toll could have been avoided but did not implicate the security forces who fired tear gas and birdshot at protesters.
Fadi al-Qadi, advocacy and communications director for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Al Jazeera the report had exaggerated the role of the protesters.
“The commission has overstated the so-called violence by protesters who were joining the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins,” Qadi said.
Set up by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who ousted Morsi from power, the investigation follows an August report by HRW suggesting Sisi should be investigated for his role in the violence.
The New York-based watchdog called last years’ killings at the two protest camps “crimes against humanity” and has called for an international inquiry, urging the UN to look into six incidents involving killings of protesters by security forces.