UN SG calls for an end to violence against Middle East protesters

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[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Thursday called for an end to violence against protesters [statement text; video] in Bahrain, referencing recent attempts to quell protests sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder]. Ban said that he is “disturbed by all these violent means of trying to disperse demonstrators, the freedom of expression, freedom of access to information, particularly the journalists.” Ban went on to urge restraint:

Here as elsewhere, violence should not be used against peaceful demonstrators and against journalists. It must stop. Those responsible must be brought to justice. Above all we have insisted on respect for the rights of peaceful protest and assembly, freedom of the press and access to information. There should be no violence from any quarter. I urge all parties to exercise restraint. The situation calls for bold reforms, not repression.

In conjunction, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay [official profile], on Friday condemned violence [press release] by security forces in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen against anti-government demonstrators as illegal and excessively heavy-handed [WP report]. Pillay blamed the protests on decades of neglecting legitimate aspirations to realize civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights [Reuters report]. Pillay also acknowledged that journalists, lawyers and activists seem to have been targeted for attack [DPA report]. Reports out of Bharain have indicated that security forces opened fire on crowds of protests [BBC report] gathered in the capital Manama for the funerals of demonstrators killed earlier this week.

Protests have swept across the Middle East and North Africa since protesters in Tunisia ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali [JURIST report] last month. On Monday, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said the government will end the 19-year-old state of emergency laws [JURIST report] amidst growing protests in Algeria. Earlier this month, President Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile] announced his resignation [JURIST report] amid unrelenting protests across Egypt. Also earlier this month, Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi [JURIST news archive] was placed under house arrest [JURIST report] in relation to calls by Karroubi and fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi [JURIST news archive] for rallies in support of the recent political reform movements in Tunisia and Egypt.

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