UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] voiced [press release] Wednesday the need for Bahrain to respect the rights of demonstrators. The announcement came after a news release [press release] Tuesday by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] reporting that two peaceful protesters were killed earlier this week in Bahrain. Pillay stated that "authorities everywhere must scrupulously avoid excessive use of force, which is strictly forbidden in international law. They must conduct prompt, impartial and transparent investigations where there have been breaches of this obligation." Pillay emphasized the importance of freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly for Bahrain's stability. Pillay also stressed that Bahrain has an obligation to respect human rights as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text]. The protest in Bahrain, calling for democratic change, was sparked by the uprising in Egypt that ousted the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile].
Earlier this month, Pillay called on Egyptian authorities to immediately release lawyers, journalists and human rights activists [official statement; JURIST report] who have been arrested and for the government to investigate whether the violence against protesters [JURIST report] has been planned. Pillay emphasized the importance of protecting human rights during a time of political change in the region. In January, shortly after the protests in Egypt began, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] and Pillay urged the Egyptian government to exercise restraint and respect the rights of protesters [JURIST report]. Pillay acknowledged [press release] reports of tactics including rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, water cannons and batons, and called on the government to investigate the reports of excessive force including civilian deaths.