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(New York) - The resignation of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt shows the power of peaceful protesters who stand up to authoritarian rulers, Human Rights Watch said today. Mubarak's departure is a historic moment that should mark the transition to a rights-respecting democracy if the military high council, which has been handed power, keeps its promise to protect the gains of the protest movement. The military should also protect protesters and other activists against reprisals by security forces.

"This is a dramatic victory for the Egyptians who showed courage and determination in demanding their rights," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "The army should seize this historic moment and ensure a speedy transition to a new era of democracy and human rights. There is still a long way to go, but today we celebrate the change wrought by the will of the people." 

Human Rights Watch said the dramatic changes in Egypt, following the uprising in Tunisia, should inspire others in a region that has known little but repression and dictatorship for decades.

"If Egypt is transformed by the aspirations and courage of people into a genuine democracy, it will be a beacon to the Middle East," Roth said. "This is a moment of hope for the entire region."

The high council of the Egyptian armed forces, to which power has been transferred, should honor the army's pledges to protesters by ending emergency rule and initiating a meaningful and inclusive process of democratic transition to ensure free, fair, and competitive elections. The high council should take all necessary steps to end torture and other human rights abuses by all security forces and ensure perpetrators of past crimes are held to account.

"Mubarak's departure is just the first step in ending 30 years of repressive rule," said Roth. "Now the Egyptian people need to see swift and concrete steps towards genuine elections and respect for basic rights. It's not enough for the Egyptian authorities to remove the dictator while maintaining the dictatorship."

The United States, European Union member states, and other countries should press the military high council to show swift progress towards a democratic transition and make clear that failure to do so will endanger continued military assistance.

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