27 November 2013 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed serious concern about the detentions and violent dispersal of protesters in Egypt, including reports of sexual assault.
“He stresses the importance of respect for peaceful protest and freedom of assembly, and a commitment to dialogue and non-violence,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
Egyptian authorities passed a new law on Sunday restricting demonstrations and giving local security authorities the power to ban gatherings that would, among other things, constitute a threat to “security” or “disrupt citizens’' interests”.
The top United Nations official today added his voice to those criticizing the law for leaving the door open to a very restrictive and repressive interpretation, as Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said yesterday.
In today’s statement, Mr. Ban reiterated Ms. Pillay’s concerns and urged Egyptian authorities to consider amendments to the law “to make sure that any laws passed are in full conformity with international human rights standards”.
Egypt has been undergoing a democratic transition following the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago in the wake of mass protests. This past July, renewed protests, in which dozens of people were killed and wounded, led to the Egyptian military deposing President Mohamed Morsy. The Constitution was then suspended and an interim government set up.
The UN chief today reiterated that an atmosphere where there is free assembly and expression is a key element for Egypt to credibly hold its planned referendum on the Constitution as is expected next month. The referendum is to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.
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