The most pertinent international concern to be addressed at the 20th Session is the deteriorating situation in Syria. The country has seen an escalation of violence, resulting in a significant increase in civilian suffering and the suspension of the UN Supervision Mission. Ms Pillay called upon the Government of Syria to cease the use of heavy armaments and further urged the international community to “overcome divisions and work to end the violence”.
Ms Pillay drew the delegates’ attention to the Rio de JaneiroUN Conference on Sustainable Development held from 20-22 June 2012. The Commissioner emphasised the importance of ensuring that human rights considerations are integrated into the outcome document of the negotiations.
Addressing the thematic priorities of the OHCHR; Ms Pillay emphasised the human rights dimensions of migration and gave an overview of the work currently being undertaken in preparation for the High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. The Commissioner further stressed the importance of respecting, protecting and fulfilling rights to counter the persistence of poverty and wide wealth disparities across the globe. In the areas of accountability and rule of law, Ms Pillay confirmed the OHCHR’s continuing support of truth and reconciliation progress in Togo, Cote D’Ivoire, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Colombia.
The OHCHR continues their work to counter racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and Ms Pillay noted with satisfaction the number of states requesting assistance in developing their national action plans against racism. The OHCHR is working with countries towards the enshrinement of women’s rights in legal documents and ensuring non-discrimination against persons with disabilities. It further aims to “step…up” its work on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Turning to specific country concerns, Ms Pillay reports a serious deterioration in the human rights situation inMali, which is exacerbating the already dire situation in neighbouring countries who play host to a large number of Mali’s refugees. Concerning reports from Eritrea indicate serious violations of human rights including arbitrary detention, torture, executions and restrictions on movement, expression and religion. The OHCHR has closed its office in Nepal in compliance with the Nepalese Government’s requests to do so, while fear of a reoccurrence of violence in upcoming elections persists in Zimbabwe. Ms Pillay further expressed concern about political prison camps and public executions in the DPRK, violence against reporters in Latin America, incidents of racism across Europe and homophobia inRussia,Ukraine and Moldova, the many challenges facing the newly formed government of South Sudan, and the use of drones and concerning counter terrorism measures in Pakistan.
Ms Pillay concluded her opening address to the 20th Session by urging states to fulfill their commitments to the OHCHR through issuing invitations to and facilitating visits by the Special Rapporteurs, responding promptly to communications and implementing UPR recommendations.