UN officials urge Egypt to respect rights of protesters

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[JURIST] UN officials including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay [official websites], on Friday urged the Egyptian government to exercise restraint [press release] and respect the rights of protesters. Navi Pillay acknowledged reports of tactics including rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, water cannons and batons [press release], and called on the government to investigate the reports of excessive force including civilian deaths. Pillay also pressed the government to lift the emergency law that has been in force for nearly 30 years and restore the use of mobile phones and social networks [Reuters report], stating:

While maintaining rule and order are important, the responsibility of the Government to protect the rights to life, liberty and security is paramount. I call on the Government to take concrete measures to guarantee the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, including by restoring free use of mobile phones and social networks. … People must be entitled to express their grievances against violations of their civil and political rights as well as their frustrations at lack of realisation of their economic rights, the right to work and the right to an adequate standard of living.

Shortly after Pillay’s comments, Egypt announced a curfew as the Egyptian army took to the streets.

More than 1,000 protesters have been detained [JURIST report] in Egypt as demonstrations against the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile] entered their third day on Thursday. Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei [Nobel Prize profile] has expressed his willingness to lead a transitional government [BBC report]. Elbaradei, who previously led the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website], has returned to Egypt [BBC report] and is reported to have joined the protests. According to some commentators, the unrest in Egypt is modeled after recent civil unrest in Tunisia that culminated with the resignation of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali [JURIST report] earlier this month.

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