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Pillay condemns “vicious” assaults by Egyptian security officers on unarmed protestors, including women

GENEVA (19 December 2011) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday strongly condemned the brutal suppression of demonstrations by military and security forces in Tahrir Square, Cairo, which have reportedly left at least 11 people dead and over 500 injured, some of them critically, since Friday.

“The graphic images of protesters, including women, being brutally clubbed and assaulted, long after the point when they are showing any resistance, are utterly shocking,” Pillay said. “People lying motionless on the ground are shown on film being smashed on the head and body with sticks. These are life-threatening and inhuman acts that cannot possibly be justified under the guise of restoration of security or crowd control.”

Pillay recalled that less than a month ago she had already deplored the use of excessive force, including live ammunition, by security and military forces against peaceful protestors, which by 23 November had reportedly resulted in the death of some 30 protestors.

“Some of those who were filmed this weekend, including those viciously clubbing and kicking an apparently unconscious half-naked woman, should be easy to identify. Consequently, there must be arrests and prosecutions,” the High Commissioner said. “It seems that Egyptian security forces, and their political and military commanders, have learned nothing over the past year, including the fact that actions like these simply fuel further anger and protests and make a resolution of Egypt’s political, social and economic problems more difficult to achieve.”

The High Commissioner once again called for an impartial and independent investigation into all instances of abuse and violent repression against protestors that have occurred in recent months, including killings, torture and the use of excessive force by security and military forces. She emphasized that the violence must stop, that such acts cannot remain unpunished and that those responsible, no matter what their rank or function, must be brought to justice.

She also called for the immediate release of all those who have been detained for attempting to exercise their rights and for an end to the media campaign aimed at discrediting peaceful protesters. Pillay also called on the protestors to preserve the peaceful nature of their demonstrations and sit-ins.

The High Commissioner expressed particularly strong concern at what appears to be a deliberate targeting of peaceful women protestors. “The ruthless violence being used against unarmed women protestors is especially shocking and cannot be left unpunished,” she said. “There have also been extremely disturbing reports of the ill-treatment of women in detention. These must be immediately investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.”

“I urge Egypt’s senior military and political leaders to act now, or themselves risk future prosecution for complicity in serious crimes,” Pillay said. “The Egyptian authorities have to show a real commitment to human rights, including through the full eradication of ill-treatment, a comprehensive reform of the security sector, lifting of the state of emergency, and the respect of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association.”

ENDS

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HighCommissioner.aspx

UN Human Rights Country Page on Egypt: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/menaregion/pages/EGIndex.aspx

For more information or interviews, please contact press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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