Brutal repression against demonstrators in the Arab region

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CIHRS Oral intervention to UN HRC

United Nations Human Rights Council: 16th Session
Item 4: General Debate- Oral Intervention
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
14 March, 2011

Delivered by: Ms. Laila Matar

Thank you Mr. President,

Three days ago, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators that had gathered at Sanaa University in Yemen, were attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition by state security forces in a dawn raid.  More than 100 were injured and two people were killed. On the same day, live ammunition was also used against demonstrators in the cities of Taizz and al-Mukalla, resulting in at least one death. Since protests began in Yemen a month ago, at least 12 people have been killed by the use of excessive force, and many hundreds injured. In many instances, pro-government thugs and security forces have joined together to beat and abuse protestors.

Four days ago, on March 11th, in Bahrain, peaceful protestors were attacked by thugs with machetes and clubs.  Security forces appear to have coordinated efforts with these attackers, and began firing tear gas and rubber bullets on the demonstrators during and after the attack.  On March 10th, text messages were circulated in Bahrain calling for three prominent human rights defenders to be killed.  The message included the addresses and other details of the human rights defenders and copies of their ID cards.  Internal security agents in Bahrain are suspected to have been involved in this act of incitement.  Yesterday, Bahrain and neighboring governments were reported to be deploying military troops throughout Bahrain, an act which indicates a willingness by the Bahraini government to further increase the use of force against protestors.

In both Bahrain and Yemen, no substantive action has been taken by the governments to address the demands for democratic reform, or to hold accountable those responsible for unlawful force against protestors. These governments must move beyond vague promises and begin enacting concrete reform measures to address the legitimate demands of their citizens. The failure of states to condition financial and/or military aid to these countries on an immediate end to the use of excessive force against protestors, including by pro-government and government sponsored mobs, constitutes a form of complicity in these crimes.

Six days ago, on March 9th, government military forces backed with individuals in civilian outfit descended on Tahrir Square in Egypt to disperse protestors that had been camped out there since the popular uprising in the country began on the 25th of January. Both groups worked together to beat and arbitrarily arrest hundreds of protestors. Many of those detained were taken to the Egyptian Museum where they were tortured by military personnel. Almost 200 of those detained were taken to an military prison.

In Tunisia, incidents of excessive use of force are still being reported by NGOs as well as the intimidation and the targeting of members of civil society who have actively participated in the 14th of January protests in the Country. Despite the radical transformation in the political situation in both Egypt and Tunisia, no independent and public investigation into violations in relation to protests have been enacted yet in either country.

The pervasive silence and inaction that has characterized the international response to concerted efforts by governments throughout the Arab region to brutally repress the legitimate demands of their citizens for democratic reform, only heightens the possibility of an escalation in rights violations, conflict, and instability.  In choosing how to react to attempts to forcefully suppress the democratic aspirations of people throughout the Arab region, your government has a historical opportunity to demonstrate its true commitment to the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Make no mistake, failure to act to uphold these principles at this time and protect those protesting for their rights, will be the crucible by which this body, and the governments represented in this room, will be judged in the future.

Thank you Mr. President.

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