Geneva, Feb 18 (AFP) The UN human rights chief todaycondemned the response of security forces against protestorsin the Middle East and North Africa as "illegal andexcessively heavy-handed".
"The nature and scope of the human rights violationstaking place in several countries in the region in response tothose who are largely demonstrating peacefully for theirfundamental human rights and freedoms, is alarming," said UNHigh Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
In the statement issued by her office, the UN rightschief "condemned as illegal and excessively heavy-handed theresponse of a number of governments in the Middle East andNorth Africa to the legitimate demands of their people".
She noted that protestors had been killed in recentweeks in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, andthat security forces were targeting their violence on certainprofessions.
"Particularly egregious are the targeted attacks onjournalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and even, in thecase of Bahrain, doctors and medical personnel attending toinjured protestors," she said.
"The reported use of plainclothes security officialsagainst opposition protestors is very worrying," added the UNofficial.
Pillay assessed that the root causes of the unrest hasbeen the deprivation of the population''s basic rights andfreedoms.
"The people of the Middle East and North Africa cannotbe denied these basic freedoms.
"The protestors'' calls for justice, respect forpersonal freedoms and human rights, for legal and politicalreforms in this regard, are reasonable and legitimate," saidPillay.
"Governments need to be responsive. By resorting tooppressive security measures, they will only foment morefrustration, more anger, more instability, which is certainlynot in the national interest," she warned.
"The Middle East and North Africa region is boilingwith anger," observed the UN rights chief.
A popular uprising which began in Tunisia and droveout president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last month has sinceswept into Egypt and led to the downfall of president HosniMubarak.
Revolts have now reached other Arab countries likeBahrain and Libya, where fatalities are mounting asauthorities move to crack down on protests.
A group of UN independent experts on human rights alsoissued a separate statement today, saying they were "alarmedand shocked" by the death toll. (AFP)