UN human rights chief voices concern about abuses in Iran, Sri Lanka

4 March 2010
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

The top United Nations human rights official today voiced deep concern about the violent crackdown on dissent in Iran and the marred prospects for peace in Sri Lanka, where journalists, human rights defenders and other critics of the Government are being mistreated.

“I am convinced that Sri Lanka should undertake a full reckoning of the grave violations committed by all sides during the war, and that the international community can be helpful in this regard,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said today, presenting her annual report to the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In May last year Government forces in Sri Lanka defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), ending a civil war that had lasted more than two decades. UN officials have urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to keep his commitment, set out in a joint statement with the world body last year, “to ensure full accountability for any crimes against international humanitarian law or abuses of human rights.”

On Iran, Ms. Pillay said she is deeply concerned about the “deteriorating” human rights situation there, including the arbitrary arrest of demonstrators, rights activists, journalists and prominent political figures.

“Many have been given harsh sentences, including capital punishment, for their role in post-election protests after questionable trials,” she noted, adding that she has discussed these issues with Iranian officials and has suggested that the authorities allow her office to visit Iran.

Turning to Africa, the High Commissioner said she met with representatives of Sudan throughout 2009 to expressed concern about death sentences and executions in that country.

Responding to recent report of fighting between rebel troops and government forces in Jebel Marra in the Darfur region of Sudan, Ms. Pillay called on all parties to “make the protection of civilians their utmost priority” and encouraged armed movements “to enter into dialogue for peace and to respect the right to life.”

On Guinea, Ms. Pillay praised the “excellent cooperation” between the UN, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in investigating the 28 September security force crackdown on unarmed demonstrators, in which at least 150 people were killed and many others raped.

Acting on one of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry which resulted, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) may establish an office in Guinea.

In her wide-ranging speech, Ms. Pillay reiterated her call from earlier this week for the Egyptian Government to immediately order its security forces to stop using “lethal force” against migrants trying to enter Israel through the Sinai Desert. There have been some 60 fatal shootings over the past two and a half years, she noted.

The High Commissioner also cited her office’s priority for combating discrimination against migrants and minorities in Europe, such as Roma, who appear to be living in deteriorating conditions in countries such as Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Ms. Pillay said she planned to raise the issue of discrimination and attacks against Roma and other migrants with Italian authorities during her visit to that country next week.

In May, she plans to visit Russia where attacks against human rights defenders too often go unpunished, she stated.

Offering praise to Mongolia, Ms. Pillay noted that President Tsakhia Elbegdorj had announced a formal moratorium on the death penalty. She also highlighted the work of several Member States that are addressing this issue in the Asia-Pacific region, where more executions take place than in the rest of the world combined.


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