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Human Rights Council opens its 17th session

“Experience shows that democratic transition is incomplete if it fails to include appropriate institutional reforms, including transitional justice processes, which are indispensable for the proper functioning of a democratic system” UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay told the 17th regular session of the Human Rights Council.

The 17th session of the UN Human Rights opened on 30 May © UN Photo/ Jean-Marc Ferre

Transitional justice is a way to address past human rights violations so that nations and their people can move forward towards peace and reconciliation.

Referring to the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, Pillay said that failure to adequately strengthen new institutions tends to lead not only to impunity for past human rights violations but to further violations, corruption and organized crime.

She added that sustainable transition also requires an end to impunity and ensuring accountability. “It is key,” she said “that a comprehensive approach to transitional justice, which addresses all serious recent and past human rights violations, seeks accountability, and respect the rights of victims to remedy and reparations, is adopted early on in the transition period to achieve reconciliation.”

She also pointed out that democracy cannot be constructed without the active contribution of civil society and the media “which can express itself freely and act as a genuine watchdog in respect of governmental action.”

In her statement, Pillay cited the promising steps taken by Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Jordan in addressing people’s demands for change but expressed deep concern about the terrible events in some parts of the region “as we continue to witness claims being met with repression and extreme violence.”

“The appropriate response is for authorities to engage in a national, inclusive dialogue to address protestors’ legitimate demands,” she said.

During the current session, the Council will review reports by and hold interactive dialogues with Special Procedures mandate holders on issues including extrajudicial and summary executions, human rights and transnational corporations, the independence of lawyers and judges, the rights of migrants, the right to education, cultural rights, human rights and foreign debt, poverty, the right to health, human trafficking, freedom of expression, and violence against women.

The 17th session of the Human Rights Council takes place from 30 May to 17 June at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. More information is available on the webpage of the session, which is also webcast live.

Read the opening statement

30 May 2011