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Responding to pressing human rights issues

A deployment of OHCHR human rights officers has gone to Gabon to observe the human rights situation during the country’s presidential election process.

OHCHR’s Rapid Response Unit swiftly monitors deteriorating human rights situations © OHCHR photo/Robert Few “The team of four experts will stay in Gabon for two weeks and, with the assistance of local expertise and the collaboration of the Gabonese Government, will contribute to an electoral process respectful of human rights. The experts’ role includes monitoring people’s right to participation in public affairs, the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention. The experts will also advise and sensitize the various entities organising the elections on human rights issues.

The 30 August 2009 poll was the fourth democratic multipartite elections organised in the oil-producing country since the introduction of the new constitution in 1990 and follows the death in June 2009 of President Omar Bongo Ondimba. Seventeen candidates are in the running.

OHCHR created a Rapid Response Unit in 2006 to swiftly prevent or address deteriorating human rights situations on the ground. Over the years, the unit has developed an internal roster of some 70 experienced human rights experts ready to be deployed at short notice, and has ensured that all logistical assistance is in place to support the missions.

Deployments may be initiated by the High Commissioner directly - in support of a mandate given to OHCHR by the Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General or UN legislative bodies, such as the Security Council - or in response to requests made by UN country teams or peace missions.

Since its inception, the unit has supported 31 rapid deployments all over the world, including fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry that investigated serious allegations of human rights abuses.

In 2007- 2008, OHCHR conducted expert missions to observe local elections from a human rights perspective, or to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during post-election violence in Armenia, Bolivia, Georgia, Kenya and Togo.

1 September 2009