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UN rights chief condemns 16 nations for activist reprisals

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Thursday told a special session [materials] of the Human Rights Council [official website] that 16 nations have failed to prevent members of their own governments from intimidating and attacking activists and protesters. Based on a UN report not yet released to the public, she noted [AP report] that such harassment has taken the form of public statements and smear campaigns as well as physical threats, arrests, beatings, torture and even killing. Moreover, Pillay emphasized that some of the attacks occurred shortly after last year's Arab Spring [BBC backgrounder], and that most of the government officials responsible for the acts are not being held accountable for their reprisals. The report details June 2011 to July 2012 with special attention to Algeria, Bahrain, Belarus, China, Colombia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. In her opening statement to the council [text] on Monday, she declared that, "[u]nless halted and sanctioned, reprisals undermine the ability of civil society and other actors to engage with the UN to promote human rights." She then reiterated a call for "all States to assume their responsibility to provide protection for those who advocate for human rights."

Also in her opening statement on Monday, Pillay addressed several other significant humans right issues [JURIST report] around the world. In addition to criticizing Bahrain for its treatment of opposition figures [JURIST report], she also condemned the country for its failure to use fair trial practices. In relation to western countries, Pillay also criticized France's eviction of the Romanian Roma minority from their camps and Greece's recent xenophobic attacks against migrants [JURIST reports].

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