Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters descended Tuesday on Alexandria and Cairo calling on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Mubarak came to power in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar Sadat.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a Tuesday statement that Egypt was in the grips of an "unprecedented" social revolt. Though military forces showed restraint, the human rights chief said she was concerned about the mounting number of casualties in Egypt as protests enter a second week.
"The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government," she added in her statement.
World leaders are issuing carefully worded statements as the situation in Egypt unfolds. Washington early Tuesday ordered all U.S. government non-essential staff and their families out of the country, a move matched by the British government.
Washington scattered many of its Egyptian diplomats to what P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department described as "safe-havens" across the Middle East. London, meanwhile, said it was advising its citizens in Egypt to leave the country "as soon as they can."
Pillay, meanwhile, said the Egyptian people were clearly calling for serious reforms in a country that she suggested was plagued by serious rights abuses at the hands of the government.
"The population appears to be clearly rejecting a system that has deprived people of fundamental rights, and has committed a range of serious abuses, including widespread acts of torture," she said.
Al-Arabiya reported Tuesday, meanwhile, that Mubarak won't run for office during presidential elections later this year.