Egypt set for Tunisia-style change: UN rights chief

Last Updated: Friday, February 4, 2011 - 20:05

Geneva: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Friday that Egypt would experience the kind of change that has swept Tunisia in the wake of a popular revolt that toppled that country`s president last month.

"Change is coming to Egypt, as it came to Tunisia, but the violence and bloodshed must stop now," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said as she called for an investigation into street protests in Egypt this week.

"Protestors must be properly protected, including from each other. The security and intelligence forces must be held accountable," she told journalists.

Pillay warned that governments must start to address their "human rights deficits" immediately, suggesting that regimes that waited might be swept away by the same wave of popular discontent that has struck Egypt and Tunisia.

"We now see there is an intense hunger for human rights in the Middle East and North Africa -- and of course in other countries in other regions," she said.

"Governments who ignore these extremely loud and clear warning signals are doing so at their own peril."

Pillay was speaking as Egyptian protesters massed Friday for sweeping "departure day" demonstrations to force President Hosni Mubarak to quit.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, president of Tunisia for 23 years, fled to Saudi Arabia three weeks ago after an uprising which has since inspired opposition movements throughout the Arab world.

Pillay said that Egypt must carry out a "transparent and impartial" investigation into violent clashes this week between pro- and anti-Mubarak demonstrators.

"The prime minister has apologised for Wednesday’s violence. I welcome this public recognition -- unique in Egypt’s recent history -- that the authorities have failed in their duties to protect the people," Pillay said.

"I urge Egypt to follow through and make the necessary reforms to promote human rights and democracy."

"There must be an investigation into whether this violence was planned, and if so by whom. This investigation must be undertaken in a transparent and impartial manner," she added.

The former South African judge also suggested Egypt`s security and intelligence services may have had a role in the violent escalation seen notably in Cairo this week after weeks of street protests.

She highlighted "a noticeable absence of police, and the army failed to separate the two groups, with tragic consequences."

"Yesterday President Mubarak gave a television interview in which he said he would like to step down now, but fears the only alternative would be chaos," Pillay said.

"In the last two days we have seen chaos in central Cairo, and one of the prime drivers of this chaos seems to have been the actions of Egypt’s security and intelligence services," she added.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, February 4, 2011 - 20:05

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