UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Monday opened the fifteenth session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] by addressing human rights violations [statement] in countries including the US, France, China and Russia. Pillay began her remarks by noting the current condition of human suffering caused by natural disasters, violence and attacks on individuals and by reiterating the need for protection of human rights in both emergencies and on an ongoing basis. She stressed the importance of human rights groups, social activists and journalists in calling attention to rights violations and the danger these groups face as a result of their work. Pillay specifically addressed human rights in China [JURIST news archive] and the decrease in social activism due to recently implemented laws. She also addressed Russia's lack of progress in bringing perpetrators of violence against journalists and rights workers to justice. In a statement addressed toward the US, Pillay noted that countries must be allowed to protect their citizens from terrorist threats, but that "anti-terrorism measures should never imperil human rights and due process." Pillay also chided the approval of new French policies toward the Roma migrants [JURIST news archive], stating that the measures would "only exacerbate the stigmatisation of Roma and the extreme poverty and exclusion in which they lived."
Last month, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [official website] concluded its 77th session by expressing concern [text; JURIST report] with the discrimination faced by Roma migrants, specifically the French exclusion policy. Also last month, the EU Parliamentary Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats accused France of violating EU law [JURIST report] with its expulsion policy. In July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] ordered measures against illegal Roma communities in France and announced legislation [JURIST report] that would make deportation easier. At the time, the French government aimed to dismantle half of illegal Roma camps within three months and to immediately deport all those found to have broken the law.