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Egyptians want fundamental rights reflected in sound laws and institutions: Pillay

GENEVA (5 July 2013) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged all parties in Egypt to make a concerted effort to restore calm by ensuring that the human rights of all citizens are respected and protected during this delicate period, and are subsequently entrenched in sound laws and institutions.

Pillay expressed support for all Egyptians striving for a state that would safeguard their human rights and freedoms, and guarantee respect for rule of law.

“The massive protests and demonstrations over the past few weeks were a very clear indication that Egyptians want their fundamental rights to be honoured,” the High Commissioner said.

“I hope that the rule of law and a system of government that respects the human rights of all Egyptians – men and women -- can be quickly re-established,” she said. “The country has so far failed to seize the opportunity to respond to the aspirations of all its citizens and move towards a truly tolerant and inclusive society, based on human rights norms and the rule of law. A concerted effort is needed by all parties to establish sound political and legal institutions.”

The High Commissioner emphasized that “internationally recognized human rights and freedoms, including freedoms of speech and assembly, need to be upheld during this delicate period of transition. I urge all parts of Egyptian society to exercise these rights in a peaceful manner, so as to avoid any further loss of life. I also urge a major effort by all political parties, and the authorities, to deter and punish any acts of vengeance.”

Pillay said she is concerned by reports of widespread detention of leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“There should be no more violence, no arbitrary detention, no illegal acts of retribution. Serious steps should also be taken to halt, and investigate, the appalling -- and at times seemingly organized -- sexual violence targeting women protestors,” she said.

Pillay said that the UN human rights office which she heads is closely following the rapidly evolving situation in Egypt. She called on the interim authorities, and all political parties and social groups, “to respond to the expectations of the Egyptian people through the initiation of a meaningful and truly inclusive dialogue, involving all parts of society, in order to achieve reconciliation and reinforce democratic principles and the rule of law, under civilian authorities.”

Pillay has offered her assistance to the Egyptian government, and in the past has expressed her deep concern, as Egypt drew up new laws and made sweeping alterations to key institutions, including the judiciary. She reiterated her concerns about Egypt’s revised Constitution as well as a number of laws, and draft laws, drawn up since the 2011 revolution, relating to issues such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the freedom for civil society organizations to operate freely and effectively, and the rights of women and minorities.

The High Commissioner reaffirmed her readiness to place her Office at the disposal of the Egyptian people in order to provide support to the transitional process and in particular to efforts by future administrations to promote a society based on principles of democracy and social justice, guided by internationally recognized human rights and freedoms.

“Egyptians deserve to live in a society run by institutions that ensure their rights are respected,” she said. “I urge everyone to seize this new opportunity to fulfil the country’s potential to become a fully functioning and prosperous democracy, without further destabilizing upheavals.”

ENDS

For further information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+ 41 79 506 1088 / rcolville@ohchr.org ); Liz Throssell (+ 41 22 917 9434 / ethrossell@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 or +41 79 618 3430 /cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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