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Human rights at the heart of political change in Tunisia

“Governments must listen to their people and put in practise their human rights obligations. Regimes that deprive people of their fundamental rights, that depend on a ruthless security apparatus to impose their will, are bound to fail in the long-term. Stability depends on the development of human rights and democracy,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Friday, 4 February 2011, at a press conference concerning events in Tunisia and Egypt.

Human rights must be at the forefront of the solutions to Tunisia’s problems © OHCHR David McCreery“Waiting until unrest actually happens is, as we have seen in Tunisia… not only perpetuating systems that to a greater or lesser degree transgress internal national laws and standards, it is also a classic case of acting too little too late.”

“Human rights are at the heart of the political change that has happened in Tunisia,” she said. “In Tunisia, people expressed loudly and clearly their appetite for a genuine break with the past and for a new era in their country.”

Referring to her team of high-level experts who had just returned from a fact finding mission in Tunisia, she said that the information they received confirmed how integral human rights will be for the construction of the future of the country.

Pillay said that she was particularly moved by the words of a man whose 28-year old son had died in Tunisia from a gun shot wound to the chest, as he gathered with other young men to protect their neighbourhood from armed militias. Speaking of his son’s death, the man had told her team, “there must be sacrifices, for there to be change.”

The UN experts are currently finalizing a written report, based on which the High Commissioner will decide on the best ways her Office could provide immediate and long term support to the Tunisian people on a range of human rights issues.

The team of four human rights experts from the High Commissioner’s Office, who visited Tunisia were; Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division; Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch; Francesca Marotta, Chief of the Methodology, Education and Training Section; and Frej Fenniche, Chief of the Middle East and North Africa Section. 

10 February 2011