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UN human rights chief urges Mali, Guinea-Bissau to hold peaceful elections

(Xinhua)

10:34, March 29, 2012

GENEVA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations human rights chief on Wednesday congratulated Senegal on the conduct of a peaceful, free, fair and transparent second round of presidential elections, and called on Mali and Guinea-Bissau to follow suit.

"At a time of uncertainty and election-related violence in other parts of West Africa, it is heartening that the Senegalese people, members of political parties, civil society and other stakeholders have pulled together to uphold the country's tradition of peaceful, democratic transitions of power," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Pillay noted with concern the risk of very different outcomes in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

Last week's coup d'etat in Mali has raised doubts about whether elections planned for late April will take place at all, let alone in conditions enabling a genuinely free and fair vote.

"Unconstitutional changes of government, accompanied by violence, can have a devastating impact on the human rights situation," Pillay said, adding that she hopes Mali gets back on the track of democratic elections as soon as possible.

Pillay noted that international observers found that the first round of presidential elections in Guinea-Bissau on March 18 had been free, fair and transparent.

However, five opposition candidates have threatened not to participate in the second round, after allegations of electoral fraud, and there is heightened tension in the country, she said.

"I call on all those taking part, especially the candidates and their supporters, to refrain from making provocative and inflammatory statements. I also call on all security forces to act in conformity with the law throughout this process," she said.

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