UN human rights chief condemns Egypt ‘abuses’

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday slammed Egypt's mass trials, which have led to at least 220 death sentences and seen journalists ordered to serve lengthy prison terms.

UN human rights chief condemns Egypt 'abuses'
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay. Photo: UNHRC

"I believe these mass trials and death penalty convictions are obscene, and a complete travesty of justice," Pillay said in a statement.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said she was "shocked and alarmed" by the sentencing Monday of three Al-Jazeera journalists, including Australia's Peter Greste, and 11 others sentenced in absentia to up to a decade in prison.
Those verdicts, along with the confirmation Saturday by an Egyptian court of the death penalty for 183 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, are the latest in a line of court cases "rife with procedural irregularities and in breach with international human rights law," Pillay said.
The journalists had been accused of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and tarnishing Egypt's reputation after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by "spreading false news".
Such charges are "far too broad and vague," Pillay said, insisting they "reinforce the belief that the real target is freedom of expression."
"It is not a crime to carry a camera," she said, adding: "It is not a crime to criticize the authorities or to interview people who hold unpopular views."
Pillay urged the authorities to "promptly release" all journalists and media employees jailed for doing their job.
She also voiced alarm that for journalists, bloggers and activists in Egypt, "harrassment, detention and prosecution . . . as well as violent attacks by unidentified assailants, have become commonplace."
The charges against the journalists were based on Egypt's anti-terrorism law, also used to bring convictions in two mass trials of more than 1,100 people in Minya earlier this year, resulting in more than 220 death sentences.
The UN rights chief, a former international judge, called on Egypt's government to review the laws used as a basis for the "highly contentious trials" and urged the judiciary to review the cases.
"There is a risk that miscarriage of justice is becoming the norm in Egypt," she said.

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UN rights chief alarmed over Egypt clashes

The United Nations human rights chief in Geneva voiced deep concern on Tuesday over the killing of at least 20 people in clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Egypt in recent days.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein: worried by Egypt developments. Photo: UNHRC

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he was "deeply disturbed" by the deaths in clashes that have raged in Egypt since Friday.
He demanded in a statement that Cairo "take urgent measures to bring an end to the excessive use of force by security personnel."
Zeid's comments came after 20 people were killed Sunday when protesters clashed with security forces after Islamists called for rallies against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government as Egypt marked the fourth anniversary of the toppling of ex-strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Supporters of Mubarak's successor, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, have regularly clashed with security forces since he was ousted by then army chief Sisi in July 2013.
Sunday's death toll marked the highest for a single day since Sisi came to office after a landslide election victory last May.
"Hundreds of people have died during protests against successive governments since January 2011, and there has been very little in the way of accountability," Zeid said.
"The lack of justice for past excesses by security forces simply encourages them to continue on the same path," he warned, pointing out that this was "leading to more deaths and injuries, as we have seen in recent days."
The statement said that the death of a leading female activist, Shaimaa Al Sabagh, was caught "on video and in photographs posted on the Internet after she had apparently been shot from behind during a peaceful protest in central Cairo."
At least 97 people had also reportedly been injured in clashes in a range of cities, including Cairo, the statement said.
"I have in the past urged the Egyptian authorities to take urgent measures to ensure that any excessive use of force by security personnel is promptly investigated, alleged perpetrators are put on trial and victims have access to
justice and compensation," Zeid said.
He also decried numerous arrests over the weekend.
More than 500 backers of Egypt's blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood were also arrested, in the biggest police sweep targeting Morsi's supporters in a single day since Sisi came to power.
"All those who have been detained for protesting peacefully must be released," Zeid said, insisting that the long-term stability of Egypt is only possible if fundamental human rights are respected."
"Otherwise people's grievances will fester and feelings of injustice will grow, creating fertile ground for further social and political unrest," he warned.