15 August 2013
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has appealed to all sides in Egypt to step back from the brink of disaster after a day of bloody violence left hundreds dead or injured.
“I deplore the loss of life and call on all in Egypt to seek a way out of the violence. I urge the Egyptian authorities and security forces to act with the utmost restraint,” the High Commissioner said.
The High Commissioner noted that there were conflicting reports about the scale of the violence as the security forces moved in on Wednesday to clear pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo. Government officials said more than 500 had been killed while the Muslim Brotherhood put the figure at more than 2,000.
"The number of people killed or injured, even according to the government’s figures, point to an excessive, even extreme, use of force against demonstrators. There must be an independent, impartial, effective and credible investigation of the conduct of the security forces. Anyone found guilty of wrongdoing should be held to account,” Ms. Pillay said.
“Egypt’s security forces are bound by the rule of law and must act with full respect for human rights, including the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly,” she said.
“Reports of attacks on public buildings and religious sites by opponents of the government are also extremely worrying and those responsible for such criminal acts should be brought to justice,” Ms. Pillay added.
“There have also been allegations that some protesters were heavily armed. Demonstrators must also ensure that their gatherings remain peaceful,” the United Nations human rights chief said.
"Wednesday’s tragic events highlight the degree to which Egypt is becoming dangerously polarized,” she said, pointing to reports of violent incidents in several parts of the country in response to the clearing of sit-ins in Cairo.
“As the United Nations Secretary-General said in his statement, violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to Egypt’s challenges. What is needed is genuinely inclusive reconciliation. I therefore appeal again to all sides to engage in urgent dialogue to avoid further violence and hate speech, with the aim of restoring constitutional order through free and democratic elections,” she said.
Reacting to the announcement by the authorities of a month-long national state of emergency, the High Commissioner stressed that it should be implemented in conformity with Egypt’s obligations under international law. In this context, it is of utmost importance that the rule of law and human rights be respected and protected.
Ms. Pillay said that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party, even in times of emergency no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life or be subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“Everyone deprived of their liberty must be treated humanely and afforded all the judicial guarantees under international law,” the High Commissioner said.
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