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High Commissioner Navi Pillay deplores Egyptian military and security forces killing of protestors, and urges independent investigation

Egypt: Halt violence - Pillay

23 November 2011

GENEVA (23 November 2011) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday deplored the role of Egypt’s military and security forces in attempting to suppress demonstrations over the past five days and in particular for the reported killing of some 30 protestors demanding a return to civilian rule and the injuring of many hundreds of others.

“I urge the Egyptian authorities to end the clearly excessive use of force against protestors in Tahrir square and elsewhere in the country, including the apparent improper use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition,” Pillay said, noting that many protestors have also been arbitrarily rounded up.

“Some of the images coming out of Tahrir, including the brutal beating of already subdued protestors, are deeply shocking, as are the reports of unarmed protestors being shot in the head,” she stressed. “There should be a prompt, impartial and independent investigation, and accountability for those found responsible for the abuses that have taken place should be ensured.”

The High Commissioner noted that “the actions of the military and security forces, instead of improving security and helping Egypt’s difficult transition to democracy, have once again simply served to inflame the situation, resulting in huge numbers of people taking to the streets to demand their rights. The more they see fellow protestors being carted away in ambulances, the more determined and energized they become.”

“The Egyptian authorities have an obligation to provide protection for all and ensure a peaceful and safe environment in the lead-up to next week's crucial elections,” Pillay said. “The people of Egypt deserve to exercise their right to vote in the country’s first elections since the departure of former President Mubarak in a violence-free environment.”

She reiterated her concern at the diminishing public space for fundamental freedoms in the country, in particular the recent attempts to curb civil society activities. “Throughout the electoral process it is imperative that the Egyptian authorities ensure the respect of freedom of expression, assembly and association, and of press,” she said.

“The lifting of the state of emergency, the implementation of an effective monitoring system during the elections, the full eradication of torture and ill-treatment, the adoption of a comprehensive approach to transitional justice and a comprehensive reform of the security sectors, are among the key future steps identified by the fact-finding mission I dispatched back in April,” Pillay recalled.

“Those steps, drawn up in close consultation with Egyptian stakeholders, should underpin national efforts towards the establishment of an open and democratic society in Egypt,” she added. “Instead, we are seeing another outbreak of violence by the state against its increasingly and legitimately angry citizens.”

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