UN rights chief condemns Egypt military crackdown

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Dec. 19 condemned the brutal crackdown on protesters by military and security forces in Cairo. Since Friday the 16th, the suppression of demonstrations has led to 11 deaths and more than 500 injuries. This is the second time since November that Pillay has condemned the use of excessive violence in Egypt. In November she issued a statement denouncing the deaths of 30 protesters at the hands of security and military forces. She expressed particularly strong concern over what seems to be a deliberate targeting of peaceful women protesters.

The graphic images of protesters, including women, being brutally clubbed and assaulted, long after the point when they are showing any resistance, are utterly shocking. People lying motionless on the ground are shown on film being smashed on the head and body with sticks. These are life-threatening and inhuman acts that cannot possibly be justified under the guise of restoration of security or crowd control.

Pillay called for an independent and impartial investigation into the violence, citing that whoever has perpetrated these attacks must be brought to justice, no matter their rank or power. She also called for the release of all of the prisoners who have been jailed for exercising their rights. Pillay also had a message for protesters, urging them to continue to preserve the peaceful nature of their protests.

From Jurist, Dec. 20. Used with permission.

See our last posts on the Egypt and the Arab revolutions.

  1. Historic women’s march in Cairo
    From the New York Times, Dec. 20:

    CAIRO — Several thousand women demanding the end of military rule marched through downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking female demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

    “Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” they chanted. “Where is the field marshal?” they demanded of the top military officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. “The girls of Egypt are here.”

    Historians called the event the biggest women’s demonstration in modern Egyptian history, the most significant since a 1919 march against British colonialism inaugurated women’s activism here, and a rarity in the Arab world. It also added a new and unexpected wave of protesters opposing the ruling military council’s efforts to retain power and its tactics for suppressing public discontent.

  2. Egypt raids US-backed NGOs
    From the New York Times, Dec. 29:

    CAIRO — Security forces shut down three American-financed democracy-building groups and as many as six other nonprofit organizations on Thursday, in a crackdown that signaled a new low in relations between Washington and Egypt’s military rulers.

    Two of the organizations, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, had been formally authorized by the Egyptian government to monitor the parliamentary elections set to resume next week. Critics said the surprise raids contradicted the military’s pledge to hold a fair and transparent vote.

    The other American-financed pro-democracy group whose offices were closed, the advocacy group Freedom House, had completed its application for official recognition just three days ago. An American group that helps train Egyptian journalists was among the other nonprofit groups raided.

    Human rights activists said security forces barging into the offices of respected international organizations was unprecedented, even under the police state of President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted this year.