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As many as 300 people were killed in Egypt's nation-sweeping protests over the last nine days, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Tuesday.
"Casualties have been mounting on a daily basis, with unconfirmed reports suggesting as many as 300 people may have been killed so far, more than 3,000 injured and hundreds arrested,” Pillay said. “I urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure police and other security forces scrupulously avoid excessive use of force, and there needs to be a full investigation into the role of security forces in the violence that occurred over the past few days.”
An ad-hoc committee of human rights defenders convened to collect information about deaths, injuries and disappearances.
"There is no clear information. The withdrawal of the police has made the whereabouts of many people unknown," said Sally Sami, a human rights defender and member of the Campaign for Justice and Accountability. "We're trying to figure out exact numbers to encourage families to come forward and report about disappearances. We learned about people who left their homes without IDs."
"We need to gather information about crime that has been committed throughout the last week. Those crimes should not be left unpunished, especially those that include gross human rights violence. Regardless of the political circumstances, justice should be implemented," she added.
Pillay noted that protesters in Egypt were moving peacefully.
“The emergency law has enabled key checks and balances regarding human rights to be circumvented and abused by security forces and other state institutions,” Pillay said.
“The popular movement in Egypt, unprecedented in recent decades, has for the most part been carried out in a courageous and peaceful manner,” Pillay said. "The authorities have a clear responsibility to protect civilians, including their right to life, and to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression,” she said. “People must not be arbitrarily detained simply for protesting or for expressing their political opinions–however unwelcome those opinions may be to those in power.”
Pillay added that the protests are clearly the product of the absence of some fundamental rights, and a system that "has committed a range of serious abuses, including widespread acts of torture.”
“I believe the Egyptian government, by maintaining an emergency law for thirty years, has clearly shown that human rights have not been one of its prime concerns,” she said.
In his Tuesday speech, President Hosni Mubarak pledged to discuss constitutional changes but did not commit to lifting the Emergency Law, enforced since 1981 following the assassination of Former President Anwar Sadat.
Pillay also expressed his concern over the security vaccum that has allowed looting and violence to spread.
“It is unheard of for the national police to completely disappear like this. I believe there should be a clear investigation into why the authorities took the decision to expose the population to considerable risk in this way, and who was responsible for such a grave breach of the people’s right to safety and security.”