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The Human Rights Council opens 15th session

The Human Rights Council, the principal UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights, opened its 15th session in Geneva which runs from 13 September to 1 October.

The 15th session of the Human Rights Council takes place at Palais des Nations in Geneva © UN Photo/Jean-Marc FERREIn a speech to the Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed the “pressing need” for human rights protection “both in emergencies and chronic human rights situations.”

In particular, she addressed the need for protection of human rights defenders and the issue of human rights in electoral environments.

“Special procedures mandate holders, press reports and advocates consistently point out that human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society activists in all regions of the world face threats to their lives and security because of their work,” Pillay said on 13 September.
She pointed out that in some countries, “peaceful dissidents, human rights advocates, lawyers, and press representatives have been targeted and violently attacked” and “ad hoc laws or other restrictive measures” have been used to curtail “civil society’s scope of action and social activism.”
“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,” she said.

The High Commissioner drew the Council’s attention to reports presented by her Office (OHCHR), such as those on witness protection, discrimination against women, children and migration, and indigenous peoples.

She has made promoting and protecting the human rights of all migrants a priority of OHCHR’s work. “I have now assumed the chair of the Global Migration Group, which is composed of leading agencies in this field. And I will be participating in the Fourth Global Forum on Migration and Development which takes place in November in Mexico,” she said.

The High Commissioner also updated the Human Rights Council on specific situations in many parts of the world.

The 15th session of the Human Rights Council is taking place at Palais des Nations in Geneva. More information is available on the webpage of the of the session, which is also webcast live.

13 September 2010