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Human Rights Chief in South Korea and Japan

In a keynote speech to the world’s largest gathering of women judges, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on 12 May in Seoul, South Korea, underlined the roles of judges and the international human rights system in making the principles of equality and non-discrimination alive and relevant to women’s daily lives.

Over 400 women jurists worldwide attend a conference on judicial challenges.© International Association of Women Judges“As State actors, judges have obligations in international law to ensure that substantive rights are enjoyed without discrimination,” Pillay told the 10th Biennial International Conference of the International Association of Women Judges.

“This duty must be fulfilled when they deliberate on specific cases and devise procedures to be applied in courts, as well as by ensuring fair and equal access to justice.”

The conference brought together 400 women jurists from around 40 countries. Judge Sang-Hyun Song, the South Korean president of the International Criminal Court, also addressed the conference.

Read the full speech of the High Commissioner

While in South Korea , the High Commissioner also met with Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chun Young-woo and the National Human Rights Commission.

Pillay then moved on to a three-day visit, from 13 to 15 May, to Japan, where she is scheduled to hold talks with Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Minister of Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada, Minister of Justice Keiko Chiba, and civil society representatives.

“We need Japan to draw on its economic prowess, ingenuity and global influence to become an ever more influential champion of human rights everywhere,” the High Commissioner said in an opinion article published in a Japanese newspaper ahead of her visit.

She encouraged the Government of Japan to pursue its commitment to human rights reforms, including the establishment of an independent national human rights institution and the ratification of additional complaints procedures under international treaties.

A range of issues, such as follow-up to the recommendations to improve human rights in Japan by various UN human rights mechanisms, the abolition of the death penalty and migration, were raised in the op-ed article.

Read the full opinion article by the High Commissioner.

12 May 2010