U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he is deeply troubled by the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. The U.N. chief also said there is "no turning back" on promised elections and reforms in Egypt, where he urged leaders to start working together.
Mr. Ban acknowledged that each country and situation is unique, but he called for respect for human rights on all sides as change sweeps the Middle East.
"Throughout this period, the United Nations has been clear and consistent in supporting basic human rights and freedoms. Above all, we have insisted on respect for the rights of peaceful protest and assembly, freedom of the press and access to information," he said.
Mr. Ban told reporters that he is deeply troubled about reports of violence in the small Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, where several protesters were killed when riot police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators demanding political reforms.
"Here as elsewhere, violence should not be used against peaceful demonstrators and against journalists. It must stop," said the U.N. chief.
'"Those responsible must be brought to justice. In responding to peaceful protests, authorities have an obligation to respect human rights. There should be no violence from any quarter. I urge all parties to exercise restraint."
The secretary-general said that in a number of countries, transitions have been initiated and reforms have been promised, and he urged leaders to deliver on those promises. He also urged leaders to listen to the frustrations of their people, especially their large youth population.
"Many young people have been frustrated by their inability to participate, with decent jobs and freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of communication should be fully guaranteed," said Mr. Ban. "Those have been largely neglected in the region. That is the lesson which the leaders should learn and try to change, as soon as possible, reflecting such strong voices from their own people."
On Egypt, where weeks of protests succeeded in unseating President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Ban said he welcomes public commitments that have been made on the holding of elections as part of a transition to democratic, civilian rule. He said those commitments must be fulfilled and there can be no turning back.
He added that the United Nations stands ready to assist in any way.