UN rights chief says nations aren’t adequately protecting rights
UN rights chief says nations aren’t adequately protecting rights

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Louise Arbour [official profile] told the 61st session of the UN Commission on Human Rights [official website] Monday that nations are falling short of their responsibilities to protect and promote human rights and that greater action must be taken against violating states. Arbour said:

At the outset of this sixty-first session of the Commission, on the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, we must assess the progress made in meeting the challenges posed by large-scale, gross human rights abuses. Whatever our differences in answering that question, I suggest that a consensus would rapidly emerge that much remains to be done to prevent the most horrific manifestations of man's inhumanity to man.

We live in a world in which memories of our capacity to wreak unspeakable atrocities on our fellow human beings are never far from the surface. Next month will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge. This summer will mark the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, while last year, we all recall, was the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. The Secretary-General used that occasion to demand determined action to bring an end to the mass violation of human rights being perpetrated in Darfur, Sudan. Our response, so far, to that human rights crisis should be examined to see if it falls short of our collective responsibility to the most vulnerable. I suggest to you that it falls very short, whether measured against our obligations or against our means, or both.

Between states working determinedly towards the realization of the full spectrum of human rights, and those in situations of near collapse, there is a category of states in which human rights problems are chronic: in which a range of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights are routinely flouted or denied but which do not attract our fickle attention in a systematic, concerted and coordinated manner.

Whether we face acute or chronic human rights violations, our approach to human rights diplomacy – both bilateral and multilateral – remains unsatisfactory. It is sporadic and selective. The Commission must take the lead in developing more effective approaches that allow for dispassionate analysis and focused, contextualized, calls for action, together with sustained, constructive attention, in order to help resolve issues that are our collective concern and responsibility.

In Arbour's speech [prepared remarks], the High Commissioner also expressed concern that "some long-established rights, such as the right not to be tortured, now find themselves opened to unprecedented interpretations." It is expected that US human rights abuses, committed against prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, will become a focus of the Commission's meeting [JURIST report]. VOA has more. The UN News Service provides additional coverage.