Wednesday, 23 November 2011

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay condemns Cairo deaths

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has condemned the "clearly excessive use of force" by Egypt's security forces during clashes with protesters.
Ms Pillay called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of at least 30 people since the weekend.
Protesters are still occupying Cairo's Tahrir Square despite the pledge of a speedier handover to civilian rule.
However, a truce has been declared near the interior ministry where the worst of the clashes has taken place.
"I urge the Egyptian authorities to end the clearly excessive use of force against protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country, including the apparent improper use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition," Ms Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.
"Some of the images coming out of Tahrir, including the brutal beating of already subdued protesters, are deeply shocking," she added.


In the light of Tuesday's announcement from the government that next week's parliamentary elections are going ahead, and that presidential elections will be brought forward to next summer, the situation around the protesters is a little more complex.
It's important to remember that the Muslim Brotherhood - which is probably the biggest opposition group in Egypt and certainly the best organised and the most influential - is not part of this protest. It wants the elections to go ahead, and lots of people in the square don't want elections. They say they would rather have the military government stand down first.
It's not February any more, when people were united in calling for the government to stand down. Different opposition groups have got different agendas now. Egypt is growing into an era where it has proper competitive party politics.
While Tahrir Square compels the eye, it's not representative of the whole of Egypt - probably not even the whole of Cairo.
"There should be a prompt, impartial and independent investigation, and accountability for those found responsible for the abuses that have taken place should be ensured," Ms Pillay said.
Wednesday's street battles in Cairo again focused on the interior ministry building, near Tahrir Square.
However, correspondents said that by the afternoon a truce had been declared. Soldiers are reported to have replaced the riot police who were previously guarding the building.
Protesters had said they did not intend to storm the ministry but were pinning police down to stop them clearing Tahrir Square.
Security forces have been using tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators.
There have also been clashes in other Egyptian cities including Alexandria, Suez, Port Said and Aswan.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the Egyptian authorities "to respect the right of peaceful protest and immediately to cease the use of violence against protesters, including live fire and the use of gas".
Also on Wednesday, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) expressed "profound concern" at the situation in Egypt and urged "the various parties in Egypt to exercise maximum restraint".
Presidential hopeful Amr Moussa met political activists on Wednesday to discuss the unrest.
"Our young people in Tahrir Square have the right to express their views freely and to protest and to sit-in provided that there will be no attack on public buildings or public properties," said Mr Moussa, former secretary general of the Arab League.
"There is a democratic path and it will not be beneficial for this path to be delayed. The elections must occur."
'Mubarak copy pasted'
Officials say more than 30 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the latest unrest. Many protesters camping on Tahrir Square are wearing safety masks and goggles to protect themselves against the effect of tear gas.

Start Quote

In Tahrir Square the youth gather to decide their future. This is the Egyptian spirit which cherishes freedom and will not accept anything less”
End Quote Zuhayr Majid Omani newspaper Al-Watan
The demonstrators are continuing to demand that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) hand over power immediately to an interim civilian council.
On Tuesday the head of Scaf, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, said parliamentary polls scheduled to begin on 28 November would be held as planned, and added that presidential elections would be held by July 2012.
The council had previously said they might not happen until late 2012 or 2013.
Anger at the delayed presidential elections, coupled with a draft constitution produced earlier in the month that would exempt the military and its budget from civilian oversight, prompted the mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square that began on Friday.
The violence is the worst since a wave of street protests toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, after three decades in power.
After Field Marshal Tantawi spoke, protesters in Tahrir Square chanted: "We are not leaving, he (Tantawi) leaves."
One protester told AFP news agency: "Tantawi is Mubarak, copy pasted. He's Mubarak in a military uniform."
However the BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo says the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as many Egyptians who are not taking part in protests, seem satisfied with the concessions announced by Field Marshal Tantawi.

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