UN rights chief slams `illegal` response to protestors
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Last Updated: Saturday, February 19, 2011, 00:08
Geneva: The UN human rights chief on Friday condemned the response of security forces against protestors in the Middle East and North Africa as "illegal and excessively heavy-handed".

"The nature and scope of the human rights violations taking place in several countries in the region in response to those who are largely demonstrating peacefully for their fundamental human rights and freedoms, is alarming," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

In the statement issued by her office, the UN rights chief "condemned as illegal and excessively heavy-handed the response of a number of governments in the Middle East and North Africa to the legitimate demands of their people".

She noted that protestors had been killed in recent weeks in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and that security forces were targeting their violence on certain professions.

"Particularly egregious are the targeted attacks on journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and even, in the case of Bahrain, doctors and medical personnel attending to injured protestors," she said.

"The reported use of plainclothes security officials against opposition protestors is very worrying," added the UN official.

Pillay assessed that the root causes of the unrest has been the deprivation of the population's basic rights and freedoms.

"The people of the Middle East and North Africa cannot be denied these basic freedoms.

"The protestors' calls for justice, respect for personal freedoms and human rights, for legal and political reforms in this regard, are reasonable and legitimate," said Pillay.

"Governments need to be responsive. By resorting to oppressive security measures, they will only foment more frustration, more anger, more instability, which is certainly not in the national interest," she warned.

"The Middle East and North Africa region is boiling with anger," observed the UN rights chief.

A popular uprising which began in Tunisia and drove out president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last month has since swept into Egypt and led to the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak.

Revolts have now reached other Arab countries like Bahrain and Libya, where fatalities are mounting as authorities move to crack down on protests.

A group of UN independent experts on human rights also issued a separate statement today, saying they were "alarmed and shocked" by the death toll.


First Published: Saturday, February 19, 2011, 00:08

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