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UN rights chief urges progress on human rights

Despite significant human rights achievements, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday urged [text] countries to "refocus their efforts to achieve universality, and impartiality with regard to justice." Speaking at the Vienna +20 Conference, Pillay reminded countries to "revive the spirit" of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) [text], adopted by consensus at the World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993. Pillay congratulated countries on their achievements following the adoption of the VDPA but reminded them of the numerous conflicts that have led to gross violations of human rights, naming Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq as examples. Opening the conference, Pillay cautioned that human rights are not universally available, and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson followed [press release], advising countries to make an effort to prioritize human rights issues.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] has addressed a variety of human rights abuses around the world in the past. In February Pillay urged [JURIST report] the international community to continue to prevent human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable and presented an annual report [official report, PDF] detailing her office's efforts in 2012. Speaking at the opening of the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Pillay specifically mentioned the ongoing situations in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palestine, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan and Syria. Also in February Pillay expressed concern [JURIST report] over reports that three Palestinians being held in Israeli custody were in poor health from hunger strikes protesting Israel's use of administrative detention. In the same timeframe, Pillay unveiled a report [JURIST report] criticizing Sri Lanka for failing to investigate widespread reports of killings and other atrocities during the latter days of the nation's 26-year civil war it fought with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Also in February Pillay expressed shock and sadness [JURIST report] concerning the brutal rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in South Africa. Pillay urged South Africa to take a stronger approach to prevent the ongoing sexual violence incidents against tens of thousands of South African women every year.

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