The United Nations human rights chief voiced concern today over France’s recent deportations of members of the Roma community and reports of a United States programme to kill people suspected of terrorism in circumstances she said were not consistent with international norms on the right to life and the rule of law.
“I note the new policies of France towards the Roma, including the dismantling of their settlements and collective deportations to their country of origin,” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in remarks to the 15th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“This can only exacerbate the stigmatization of Roma and the extreme poverty in which they live. I urge European States, including France, to adopt policies enabling Roma people to overcome their marginalization,” Ms. Pillay said.
Stressing that States were obligated to protect people from terrorism, the High Commissioner pointed out that anti-terrorism measures must never imperil human rights and due process of law.
“In this context, I am troubled by reports concerning a program by the United States of targeted killings of suspected terrorists in circumstances that challenge international norms set to protect the right to life and the rule of law,” she added.
“I am aware that a federal lawsuit has been filed in a US district court in Washington, DC, challenging the US Government's authority to target and kill US citizens outside of war zones when they are suspected of involvement in terrorism.”
On Mexico, Ms. Pillay said conditions of migrants from that country of those transiting through it warranted utmost vigilance. She highlighted the recent case of 72 migrants from Central and South America who were killed in Mexico, apparently by criminal gangs.
“I recognize that the Government of Mexico has made strong efforts to curb the growing climate of violence and encourage it to conduct a thorough, transparent and independent investigation into these killings,” she said.
She also spoke out against a trend of intimidating and threatening human rights defenders, including journalists and civil society activists, around the world.
“Peaceful dissidents, human rights advocates, lawyers, and press representatives have been targeted and violently attacked in countries, including Iran, Iraq, and Somalia,” Ms. Pillay said.
The High Commissioner said the curtailment of civil society’s scope of action and social activism with ad hoc laws or other restrictive measures in countries such as Bahrain, Belarus, China, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia is disturbing.
“In Israel draft laws have given civil society cause for concern. Peaceful activists have been injured and arrested for protesting the construction of the wall in occupied Palestinian territory. In the Gaza Strip, the de facto authorities shut down civil society organizations.”
In Azerbaijan and Russia, little progress had been achieved to bring to justice the perpetrators of murders and attacks against defenders which have occurred during the past few years, she said, while in Guatemala, Mexico and Serbia, State institutions seemed unable to respond to attacks against defenders and activists.
“I urge the Human Rights Council and the international community to support squarely and vocally human rights defenders. In this context, I would also like to bring to the attention of the Council the vital need to ensure the safety and protection of defenders and other witnesses who cooperate with UN-mandated fact-finding and investigative initiatives. Such protection must span the whole cycle of these missions’ activities and beyond.”
In his remarks, the President of the Council Sihasak Phuangketkeow said the main challenge for the session would be to engage in the review of the Council without losing sight of its already heavy agenda. He urged members to forge unity of purpose and tackle all human rights issues even-handedly.