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Press release of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures on the situation in Egypt

GENEVA (16 August 2013) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* today called for restraint and an immediate end to violent confrontations that have seen hundreds killed and thousands injured in Cairo in recent days. “Egypt is facing an escalating and deeply worrying human rights crisis,” they stressed, while urging all parties involved to take immediate steps towards political reconciliation.

“We condemn any excessive use of force by the security forces and urge a full investigation into their actions,” said Mr. Chaloka Beyani, who currently heads the Coordination Committee of international experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. “Peaceful demonstrations must not be met with violence, and those responsible for ordering and perpetrating arbitrary killings and other human rights violations are accountable for their actions under national and international law.”

As a state of emergency was announced to be implemented in the country, the human rights experts underlined that it could not justify the suspension of non-derogable human rights, and that no circumstances whatsoever could justify summary executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions.

“We also condemn any violence perpetrated by protesters and urge them to remain peaceful and reject violence and retaliation,” Mr. Beyani said. “Political, religious and community leaders on all sides must not incite further violence and should take urgent steps to defuse tensions and the current extremely dangerous situation.”

The human rights experts voiced their alarm at the violence and dismay at the death toll, which includes women, young people and members of the media, and which may have exceeded 600 following violence on Wednesday as the security forces took action to break up protest camps in central Cairo. “These serious violations of international human rights law must not remain unpunished,” the experts underscored.

“In the current highly volatile climate, we call upon the Egyptian security forces not to respond forcibly to new protests that are likely in the wake of Wednesday’s violence, the high death toll and calls for such protests,” they said. “We appeal to all parties to fully respect international human rights standards and exercise restraint.”

The independent human rights experts called for calm and immediate steps towards political reconciliation, and appealed for tolerance - including religious tolerance following assaults on places of worship. They also expressed the need to put a stop to the high levels of sexual violence that have been reported.

“A period of dialogue, reconciliation and inclusive political transition must begin that recognizes the concerns of all in society and has the objective of ensuring a stable, democratic and united Egypt,” they stressed.

Furthermore, the Coordination Committee of international human rights experts urged the Government of Egypt to respond positively to the requests of special procedures to visit the country in order to undertake essential human rights observation and assist the authorities in undertaking essential measures to ensure the protection and promotion of all human rights.

“Special procedures” is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 36 thematic mandates and 12 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with support for the fulfilment of their mandates.

(*) The Coordination Committee is a body of six independent experts which coordinates and facilitates the work of special procedures as a whole. It is currently composed of Mr. Chaloka Beyani (Chair), Mr. Olivier de Frouville, Ms. Sheila B, Keetharuth, Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, Ms. Frances Raday, and Ms. Farida Shaheed.

Coordination Committee: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/special/ccspecialprocedures.htm

Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Thematic mandates: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Themes.aspx

Country mandates: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Countries.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Egypt: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/EGIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Graham Fox (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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