UN rights chief concerned over Egypt protest casualties

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Tuesday praised the efforts [press release] of Egyptian protesters while repeating concerns over casualties [JURIST report], calling on the nation's leaders to give citizens the democratic reform they demand. There are currently unconfirmed reports of 300 casualties and 3,000 injured. Citing Article 21 of the of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text], Pillay stated that the will of the people should determine the government:

The authorities have a clear responsibility to protect civilians, including their right to life, and to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. People must not be arbitrarily detained, simply for protesting or for expressing their political opinions—however unwelcome those opinions may be to those in power.
President Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile] has announced that he will not seek re-election [speech transcript], although he does not plan on stepping down nor leaving Egypt. Protesters were not mollified by this statement, and protests have increased substantially since his speech. The protesters released their official demands [AP report], which include the removal of Mubarak and no transfer of power to his son, Gamal; negotiations with the military only after Murbarak's departure; and free and fair elections for the presidency and parliament.

As of Thursday, more than 1,000 protesters have been reported as detained [JURIST report] as demonstrations against the 30-year reign of Mubarak continued. Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei [Nobel Prize profile] expressed his willingness to lead a transitional government [BBC report]. Elbaradei, who previously led the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website], returned to Egypt 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] The similarities between recent protests was analyzed by Forum contributing editor L Ali Khan [academic profile], professor of law at Washburn University in the op-ed Constitutional Enforcement in Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt [JURIST op-ed].

 

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