Navi Pillay Gives an Around-the-World Tour of Human Rights Abuses

It’s the job of the UN  High Commissioner for Human Rights to shine a spotlight on human rights abuses, wherever they occur around the world.  Navi Pillay, I dare say, is very good at her job.  Yesterday, in Geneva, she addressed an opening session of the Human Rights Council and delivered something of an around the world tour of human rights concerns.  Here’s a sample of her remarks.

In Sri Lanka, I welcome the progress made in returning displaced persons, and hope the review and release of security detainees can similarly be expedited.  But the opportunity for peace and reconciliation continues to be marred by the treatment of journalists, human rights defenders and other critics of the Government.  I am convinced that Sri Lanka should undertake a full reckoning of the grave violations committed by all sides during the war, and that the international community can be helpful in this regard.

I remain deeply concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran where there has been a violent crackdown on dissent, including the arbitrary arrest of demonstrators, human rights activists, journalists and prominent political figures. Many have been given harsh sentences, including capital punishment, for their role in post-election protests after questionable trials.  I had the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Iranian delegation during the recent UPR, and have suggested that the authorities allow my Office to visit Iran.  [Ed note: more on Iran at the Human Rights Council here]

 Throughout 2009, I met with representatives of Sudan and expressed deep concern over death sentences and executions imposed and carried out in that country.  I note the Presidential pardon of all alleged combatants of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).  However, the wave of executions, including of six men executed as recently as 14 January 2010 is deeply troubling.  A positive step in the peace process in Sudan was last month’s Framework Agreement between the Government of Sudan and JEM, which was reached with the help of Qatar and Chad.  I am concerned, however, over recent reports of fighting in the Jebel Mara. All parties should make the protection of civilians their utmost priority and I encourage all armed movements to enter into dialogue for peace and to respect the right to life. 

Let me take this opportunity to underline the excellent cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West-African States (ECOWAS) in relation, to the violence that erupted in Guinea last September. The international Commission of Inquiry into the events and their aftermath, as you know, was called for by the AU and ECOWAS, and established by the UN Secretary General “with a view to determining the accountability of those involved.”  One of the recommendations of the CoI is that OHCHR establish an office in Guinea.  OHCHR has received full support from the current authorities and the United Nations system in this regard.


 Earlier this week, I called on the Egyptian Government to immediately order its security forces to stop using “lethal force” against unarmed migrants trying to enter Israel via the Sinai Desert.  There have been some 60 fatal shootings over the past two and a half years.  An urgent and independent inquiry into these killings must be conducted.
Over a year ago, I welcomed the decision of the United States to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay and to ban methods of interrogation, transfer and detention that contravene international law. Since then some progress has been made.  The United States should now conduct thorough investigations into allegations of torture at the detention centres in Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, account for practices that may have contravened international law, and hold violators to account.

Full remarks here