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Egypt: “Transition process should not overshadow accountability” – UN experts

GENEVA (17 February 2011) – “Human rights violations which occurred during the protests in Egypt should not be overshadowed by the transition process,” said Thursday a group of UN experts*, noting that as many as 365 people were killed and about 5500 people were injured from 25 January to 15 February 2011, and that 32 police officers lost their lives and 1000 were injured, according to the Ministries of Health and Interior.

“Accountability efforts to ensure justice for violations committed should form part of the long term democratic reforms to fulfill the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” the human rights experts stressed. “We urge the authorities to investigate the extent and incidents of violence including as a result of excessive use of force by security officials, officials who ordered use of live ammunition and acts of violence between the pro- and anti-government protesters.”

For the UN Rapporteur on arbitrary executions summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, “the circumstances leading to the killings must be fully investigated to determine the parties responsible including claims that the authorities were complicit in attacks against demonstrators or did not take effective steps to prevent the acts of violence.”

Attacks against journalists and media professionals have also been reported during the protests, including physical attacks, confiscation of equipment, closure of media offices, harassment and intimidation.

“Journalists play an indispensable role to keep the public informed of events as they unfold,” said the UN Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue. “An attack against a journalist is thus not only a violation of his or her right to freedom of opinion and expression, but the right of the public to be informed.”

On his part, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, El Hadji Malick Sow, drew attention to the fact that peaceful protestors arrested in connection with the demonstrations are still in detention. He expressed concern at the fact that many cases of detention were not acknowledged by the security forces. According to the reports, at least 119 persons were arbitrarily arrested during the demonstrations.

“We call on the authorities to ensure that all persons who peacefully participated in the demonstrations are promptly released or allowed to challenge the legality of their detention in accordance with domestic and international law,” Mr. Malick Sow said.

The group of independent experts urged the transitional Government to establish an independent inquiry to investigate human rights violations which occurred during this period, with the powers to transmit names and evidence for prosecution to the relevant authorities.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and any accountability measures adopted will be weighted against international standards,” the experts stressed. “We stand ready to assist the country in any possible way to pursue its endeavours in this regard.”

(*) The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns (South Africa): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/executions/index.htm

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Frank La Rue (Guatemala) http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/religion/index.htm

The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan Mendez (Argentina) http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is comprised of five independent experts: the Chair, Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow (Senegal), Mr. Roberto Garreton (Chile), Ms. Shaheen Sardar Ali (Pakistan); Mr. Mads Andenas (Norway) and Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/detention/index.htm

For more information and media requests, please contact Pasipau Wadonda-Chirwa (Tel.: + 41 22 917 9252 / email: pwadonda-chirwa@ohchr.org) or write to eje@ohchr.org