February 18, 2011 / 5:27 PM / in 7 years

UN rights boss decries repression in Libya, Bahrain

* Navi Pillay says security forces have used excessive force

* Condemns killings of protesters

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Security forces in countries including Libya and Bahrain have used illegal and excessive force in response to the legitimate demands of their people, the top U.N. human rights official charged on Friday.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also condemned the killings of protesters in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

“The Middle East and North Africa region is boiling with anger,” Pillay declared in a statement.

“At the root of this anger is decades of neglect of people’s aspirations to realise not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.”

She 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”.

“The use of lethal force by security personnel in Libya has reportedly led to the death of more than 20 protesters,” she said, noting some sources reported a toll of up to 50 deaths.

The North African country remains largely closed to international scrutiny, including her Geneva-based office.

“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 protesters,” she said.

Military-grade shotguns had also been used against protestors in the Gulf island kingdom, while security forces in Yemen had used electric tasers and batons, according to Pillay.

She voiced concern at recent remarks by some Iranian parliamentarians calling for the execution of opposition leaders.

Freedoms of expression and assembly, as well as the right to life and security were fundamental, she said.

“The people of the Middle East and North Africa cannot be denied these basic freedoms. The protesters’ calls for justice, respect for personal freedoms and human rights, for legal and political reforms in this regard, are reasonable and legitimate,” said Pillay, who is from South Africa. (Editing by Andrew Roche)

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