The United Nations Human Rights Commission opened its fifty-eight session in Geneva today, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, describing the gathering as the forum at which the most comprehensive debate on the state of human rights around the world takes place.
She called on government representatives attending the Commission to convince their countries to adhere to human rights instruments to which they are not party, and to consider joining the number of countries that have issued standing invitations to UN special human rights reporters to visit their countries.
Ms. Robinson also stressed the need for the Commission to consider how its work could be integrated with other significant UN undertakings around the world, including that of the International Conference on Financing for Development currently under way in Monterrey, Mexico.
On the situation in the Middle East, Mrs. Robinson said Palestinians continued to be subjected to a wide range of human rights violations related to the ongoing occupation and Israel also continued to suffer from deliberate killings of civilians. Mrs. Robinson re-iterated her call for the international observers to be present on the ground as a deterrent to the violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and also to promote human security against suicide and other attacks on Israeli civilians.
The fifty-three-member Commission is the UN's principal human rights organ. At the current session, which will last from 18 March to 26 April, representatives of States are scheduled to discuss key human rights issues, including racism, the rights of minorities and migrant workers, and the rights of women and violence against them.
Reports are expected from UN investigators on the human rights situations in Afghanistan, Burundi, Cuba, Chechnya (Russian Federation), Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, parts of southeastern Europe, Sudan, East Timor and Cyprus. The Commission will also take up the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.