Four United Nations human rights experts has voiced alarm at the violent
crackdown against protesters in Egypt that has led to the deaths of at least 20
people, urging the country’s interim authorities to engage in dialogue ahead of
next week’s parliamentary elections.
More than 1,700 others have been injured since Saturday in the clashes between
security forces and demonstrators, according to media reports, with Cairo the
focus of the violence.
In a statement
issued in Geneva the independent UN human rights experts expressed concern both
at the degree of violence and the deterioration of the freedoms of peaceful
assembly and association.
Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on summary executions, said the use of
lethal force should not be an option when controlling demonstrations.
“Dissent must be tolerated and not restrained with excessive force, which can
lead to loss of life,” he said. “I strongly urge the security forces to exercise
the utmost restraint to avoid the escalation of violence and take immediate
measures to protect the right to life of the demonstrators.”
Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to
freedom of opinion and expression, described that right as a “cornerstone of
He said it was essential that diverse views, including criticism of authorities,
can be expressed peacefully in Egypt, where the long-standing regime headed by
Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February after weeks of protests.
Parliamentary elections, originally scheduled to take place in September, are
now slated to begin next Monday and continue in a series of stages through
“At its current historic juncture, the interim authorities should encourage
plural voices to be heard, including through human rights NGOs (non-governmental
organizations) and the media, particularly in light of the upcoming
parliamentary elections,” said Mr. La Rue.
Human rights defenders are especially important in promoting and consolidating
democratic life, according to Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the
situation of human rights defenders.
She called on Egyptian authorities to “create an enabling environment so that
human rights defenders can carry out their activities.”
Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly
and of association, stressed that the violence must end immediately.
“An independent investigation should be immediately initiated into the cause of
death and escalation of violence.”
Earlier this month the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
(OHCHR) voiced concern at what it called “a diminishing public space for freedom
of expression and association in Egypt.”