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UN human rights panel opens annual session in Geneva

UN human rights panel opens annual session in Geneva

A United Nations expert panel on the promotion and protection of human rights opened its annual session today in Geneva, with women's rights, sexual slavery and discrimination against indigenous peoples high on its agenda.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said in her opening remarks that thanks to its expertise and experience, the 26-member Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has been able to provide the UN with useful recommendations on many issues.

"The United Nations and the human rights community have long benefited from the expertise of the Subcommission in drafting human rights standards, increasing our understanding of new issues, and devising procedures for the protection of human rights," Ms. Robinson said. "It goes without saying that to maintain its high standing the Subcommission must continue to meet the highest standards of precision and objectivity."

Among the issues on its provisional agenda for this year's session, which is scheduled to last until 17 August, the Subcommission is expected to look at questions related to the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all countries; economic, social and cultural rights and the prevention of discrimination and protection of indigenous peoples and minorities.

The panel will also examine the administration of justice, as well as the rights of women, slavery, trafficking in persons, the rights of asylum-seekers, the right of return of displaced persons, terrorism, and the promotion of democracy.

Created by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1947, the Subcommission is made up of independent experts who conduct studies and make recommendations to the Commission. The panel is credited with spurring current worldwide interest in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, and with leading a widening campaign to end traditional practices such as female genital mutilation that are harmful to the health of women and children.