High Commissioner emphasises need for accountability to protect victims of human rights violations
Thursday, 08 March 2012 15:56


The Human Rights Council (the Council) held an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanethem Pillay, on 2 March. Ms Pillay presented her annual report, outlining the key areas in which the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has undertaken work in the past year.


The High Commissioner’s report was met with widespread support from States and OHCHR was commended for its efforts in coping with an extraordinarily large workload. Work towards treaty body strengthening was generally supported although some States expressed concerns with the format of the consultations. The planned panel discussion on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity raised serious objections from some Council members. The report of the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was praised by some States, however the High Commissioner stated that it fell short in its recommendations.


In the interactive dialogue, States expressed support for the ongoing treaty body strengthening process and recognised the need for the initiative. A second round of State consultations on treaty body strengthening will be held in New York on 2 and 3 April 2012. The High Commissioner explained that she hopes the New York consultations will build on the consultations that took place in Geneva earlier this year, which sparked a ‘lively debate’ from the 108 States that participated. The High Commissioner will be launching her report on the recommendations to come from the treaty body strengthening process in June 2012.


Emphasis was placed by some States (Malaysia, the Arab Group, and Cuba) on the importance of keeping within an intergovernmental framework. This is in reference to the recent resolution adopted in the General Assembly to create an intergovernmental process to work on treaty body strengthening, a process which threatens to exclude other parties, and to undermine the recommendations that have come from the broad consultations facilitated by OHCHR.


With the treaty body system continuing to grow and a significant increase in the tasks requested of OHCHR by the Council, the High Commissioner reiterated her concerns that her Office’s ability to support the treaty body system has become unsustainable. She explained that without sufficient resources, the protection offered by the treaty bodies will become weakened and appealed to the Council for a commitment to ensure that there are adequate resources available to enable OHCHR to continue to efficiently carry out its mandate. Support was overwhelmingly expressed to the High Commissioner in her call for adequate resources in order to fulfil her mandate.


Strong objections were made by Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC), Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group), Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia to the panel discussion on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group) stated that it would ‘have preferred that the High Commissioner should not refer to subjects of sexual preference’ due to the subject being ‘incompatible with its values and principles as well as its moral and religious precepts’. Malaysia warned of the sensitive nature of the discussion and that ‘moral consensus and values in the community are rooted in cultural and religious beliefs’. It stressed that it is ‘important to respect and take into account the views of the majority as far as values and morality are concerned’. Pakistan stated that ‘such controversial issues put into doubt the credibility of human rights and undermine the promotion and protection of human rights around the world’.


The High Commissioner was criticised by some states for not covering certain situations in her statement, most notably, (Pakistan on behalf of OIC, Mauritania on behalf of Arab Group and Turkey) for failing to include in her report the recent burning of the Holy Koran. Similarly, (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, Egypt on behalf of NAM, Thailand, Maldives, Bangladesh, Syria and Turkey) expressed that they felt the dire human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Syrian Arab Golan had not been addressed and they stressed that the situation should be given due attention by the international community. In an apparent effort however to deflect criticism that her report did not take into account human rights violations in all parts of the world, the High Commissioner did look to Guantanamo Bay and expressed her deep disappointment at the failure to close the facility. In addition she expressed her concerns about the rights of the detainees being held there.


The High Commissioner welcomed Sri Lanka’s publication of the report of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission but stated that the report fell short in relation to a comprehensive accountability process as recommended by the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts. She recognised the important recommendations made but encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to engage with the Special Procedures and her Office on follow up to the report. Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, Egypt on behalf of NAM, and Cuba welcomed the LLRC report published by the Government of Sri Lanka but emphasised that Sri Lanka must be left alone to achieve its objectives without external pressure. Egypt on behalf of NAM went as far to say that Sri Lanka’s commitment to reconciliation and open engagement with international community renders any action by the Council unwarranted.


© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2019