UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday voiced concern [press release] over the growing violence and rising death toll in Egypt stemming from ongoing protests throughout the country. At least 50 people have been killed since protesters took to the streets to commemorate the second anniversary of the start of the Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive]. In addition to the numerous deaths and injuries, Pillay brought attention to the dozens of women who have been sexually assaulted in Cairo over the past week. Pillay expressed concern over the current instability in the country:
As the tragic events over the past few days have shown, Egypt remains extremely fragile and unstable, and I urge the Government to make a much stronger effort to accommodate opposing points of view, and take concrete actions to address public concerns. This is necessary to increase nationwide participation and ownership of the constitutional, institutional, economic and legal reforms. Each missed opportunity to reach national consensus, and each example of excessive use of force by security forces, is aggravating an already frighteningly tense and volatile situation.The High Commissioner specifically urged President Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to listen to and communicate with opposition groups, emphasizing a need for solutions to issues surrounding the country's newly adopted constitution and concerns over the judiciary system
Egypt has been plagued by continuing protests and violence since the beginning of the revolution. Earlier this week, Morsi declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] in an attempt to quell growing unrest and violent political protests in cities along the Suez Canal, including Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. This came a day after nationwide unrest compounded following an Egyptian court ruling handing down 21 death penalties [JURIST report] on Saturday for a 2012 soccer riot that resulted in 74 deaths and thousands of injuries. Last week an Egyptian rights group reported [JURIST report] that police abuse and torture continue to be ongoing issues and that police conduct has not improved since the abuses faced under the old regime. Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court was forced to indefinitely halt operations [JURIST report] in December amid pressure from protesters attempting to block judges from entering the court. The protesters, supporters of Morsi, flooded the court and blocked the judges to prevent them from hearing a case challenging the validity of the new constitution. Protests in the country have been increasing since Morsi signed the new constitution [JURIST report] into law earlier that month. Many individuals and rights groups have questioned the validity of the constitution, as only 32.9 percent of Egypt's total of 52 million voters actually participated in the referendum to approve it.