News Releases 2011

2011: Testing to the limit the capacity for international solidarity

United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity, Virginia Dandan"This year we witnessed staggering events in various parts of the world, the likes of which we have never seen before. Extreme weather patterns caused unprecedented devastation, from widespread floods in Central and South America and the South and Southeast Asian countries, to droughts and famine in the Horn of Africa, and the tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. These events—together with the social unrest and political upheavals that continue to spread worldwide, and the financial turmoil within the Eurozone and other rich countries—have all tested the capacity of the international community to come together to help one another.

We have witnessed how disasters—natural or man-made—affect the poor and the rich alike. And we have also witnessed how solidarity has brought people together, across nationalities, and social and cultural differences, to address the threats they must face, and to respond with a sense of oneness, drawing strength from each other to express their common humanity. This belies the criticism that solidarity is mere rhetoric and demonstrates that solidarity is not about charity. Read more...

Dignity has no nationality

“Let us recall on this International Migrants Day that migrants are often the engine of innovation and growth, as positive societal change is dependent on new ideas, perspectives and experiences. Socio-economic data and relevant studies show that the protection of the human rights of migrant workers, whether in a regular or irregular situation, reinforces the positive impact of migration on development and productivity at the national level.

It is therefore with utmost concern that we see a tendency of States to criminalize irregular migration. Crossing the border is not per se a crime; it is at most an administrative offence. The trend to criminalize irregular migrants or persons assisting migrants in an irregular situation not only runs contrary to humankind’s historical need and wish to seek and learn from new opportunities, but puts at risk fundamental human rights of people in search for a better life. Read more...

Human Rights Day 2011: Social media and human rights

This year thousands of people decided the time had come to claim their rights. They took to the streets and demanded change. Many found their voices using the internet and instant messaging to inform, inspire and mobilize supporters to seek their basic human rights.

Social media helped activists organize peaceful protest movements in cities across the globe—in Tunis, in Cairo, in Madrid, in New York, and in cities and towns across the globe—at times in the face of violent repression.

Next two years key to human rights development in ASEAN region

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at the 4th Regional Civil Society Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights held in Bali, IndonesiaThe UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Monday, 28 November 2011 that the next two years will be crucial to the development of regional and national human rights institutions in the ASEAN region, particularly in the light of developments under way in Myanmar, which will chair ASEAN in 2014.

Pillay spent three days on the Indonesian island of Bali meeting the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), National Human Rights Institutions from four of the ten ASEAN countries and a broad range of civil society organizations. While in Bali, she also spoke by telephone with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on a range of issues including Myanmar’s forthcoming chairmanship of ASEAN.

UN independent expert urges Viet Nam to close down compulsory rehabilitation centres for drug users and sex workers

Mr. Anand Grover, Special Rapporteur on right to health © OHCHRThe UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, concluded his mission to Viet Nam today by stressing that detention and compulsory treatment of injecting drug users and female sex workers in the so-called rehabilitation centres violate their right to health.

“Detainees are denied the right to be free from non-consensual treatment as well as the right to informed consent in all medically related decisions”, he said. Calling the practices “ineffective and counterproductive”, the UN independent expert underscored that the centres perpetuate stigmatization and discrimination of those groups in the society, impede the Government’s HIV/AIDS efforts and have proven futile in reducing drug use and sex work, their stated objective. Read more...

Responses sought to Special Rapporteur's questionnaire

Call for a change © UN Photo, Jean Marc FerréThe Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr Maina Kiai, is seeking feedback via a questionnaire, towards his first thematic report.

Human Rights Council resolution 15/21 invites the Special Rapporteur to elaborate a framework through which to consider best practices to promote and protect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Mr Kiai's first thematic report is due by the end of February 2012, for submission to the Council in June 2012. Read more...

Cambodia: UN Special Rapporteur in fact-finding mission

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, will carry out an official visit to the country from 5 to 11 December 2011.

“While the focus of my mission will be an analysis of the electoral system and related institutions from a human rights perspective, I will also continue to follow-up on other aspects of the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Cambodia,” Mr. Subedi said, announcing his sixth visit to the country. Read more...

16 Days of Activism: 15 years of initiatives to end violence against women

A women poses in front of a graffiti representing the sun © UN PHOTO/Martine PerretFrom Uganda to Grenada; from Nepal to Iraq; from Bangladesh to Ukraine: since its creation in 1996, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women has delivered more than USD 78 million to support 339 initiatives around the world.

The UN Trust Fund celebrates this year 15 years of preventing violence against women and girls; expanding their access to services, including legal assistance, psychological counseling and health care; and strengthening the implementation of laws, policies and action plans on violence against women and girls. Read more...

Human Rights-based approach to trafficking

“Human trafficking is one of the major ills of our times.” © IOM PhotoThe global momentum against human trafficking should be encouraged while at the same time focusing on a human rights approach in tackling it, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has said.

Launching the Commentary on the UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking in Moldova, Pillay said: “We shouldn’t allow the agenda to be diverted to distinct concerns such as clamping down on irregular migration, without addressing illegal migration avenues that keep migrants out of the reach of smugglers and human traffickers.” Read more...

UN expert on the right to health Anand Grover to study the impact of detention and rehabilitation centres in Viet Nam

United Nations Special Rapporteur Anand Grover will visit Viet Nam from 25 November to 5 December 2011 to consider issues related to the enjoyment of the right to health in the country such as availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health services, goods, facilities and information. He will also study the impact of detention and rehabilitation centres.

“I will assess the impact of the facilities known as the ‘Centres for social education and labour’ and ‘Centres for post rehabilitation management’ on the right to health of people who are undergoing treatment in those facilities,” Mr. Grover said, announcing the first mission to Viet Nam by an independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the implementation of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Read more...

Freedom of expression everywhere, including in cyberspace

Journalists use internet access from their notebooks in a high velocity train © EPA/ROLF HAID“In recent months, we have seen a growing movement of people around the world who are advocating for change – for justice, equality, accountability of the powerful and respect for human rights. The Internet has often played key a role in such movements by enabling people to connect and exchange information instantly and by creating a sense of solidarity,” said UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, when presenting his annual report to the UN General Assembly.

The Internet has become a vital communications tool which individuals can use to exercise their right to freedom of expression and exchange information and ideas. Still, La Rue noted that in some countries where Internet access is widely available, online content may be heavily restricted. In other countries, where online content is not restricted, the Internet may not be accessible to the majority of the population. Read more...

Human Rights on the record

The United Nations flags in Geneva © UN PhotoOn Thursday 13 October the Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights record of Haiti completing the first of its review cycles of the human rights record of all 193 member States of the United Nations, a milestone many believed impossible when the process was inaugurated in 2008.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay congratulated the Human Rights Council saying, “The UPR (Universal Periodic Review) has proved to be an innovative, transparent, collaborative instrument for change and has made it possible – for the first time ever – for all UN Member States to be reviewed on an equal basis.” Read more...

Myanmar: UN expert welcomes prisoners’ release and urges Government to free those still jailed

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, on Thursday welcomed the decision by President Thein Sein to grant another amnesty and release a significant number of prisoners, and urged the Government to free the remaining prisoners of conscience in the country.

While the exact number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience included in the release has yet to be confirmed, it is believed to be more than 200, including a number of prominent figures. Among those released are some whose cases have been previously addressed by the Special Rapporteur, as well as some individuals he had visited in jail. Read more...

UN expert recommends amendment of lèse majesté laws in Thailand

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, today urged the Government of Thailand to amend its laws on lèse majesté. According to Section 112 of the Thai penal code, ‘whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.’

“I urge Thailand to hold broad-based public consultations to amend section 112 of the penal code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act so that they are in conformity with the country’s international human rights obligations,” the expert said. “The recent spike in lèse majesté cases pursued by the police and the courts shows the urgency to amend them.” Read more...

UN Special Rapporteur on Cambodia urges authorities to stop the current draft NGO law

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, urged the Cambodian authorities to carefully review the current draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations, expressing concern that “it may hamper the legitimate work of NGOs in the country.”

“The Government of Cambodia should not proceed with the draft NGO law in its present form,” Mr. Subedi said presenting his annual report* on the situation of human rights in Cambodia to the UN Human Rights Council. “Of course, as a sovereign country, Cambodia is entitled to enact a law on NGOs, but the decision to adopt a law to regulate NGOs and associations is a critical initiative which requires careful attention, given its long-term implications for the development of Cambodian society - and in turn the country – itself.” Read more...

Myanmar: “Serious human rights issues remain despite positive steps by the authorities,” says UN expert

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana © UN Photo/Evan SchneiderThe United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, urged the Government to intensify its efforts to implement its own commitments and to fulfill its international human rights obligations.

“This is a key moment in Myanmar’s history and there are real opportunities for positive and meaningful developments to improve the human rights situation and bring about a genuine transition to democracy,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said at the end of his five-day mission* to the country. “The new Government has taken a number of steps towards these ends. Yet, many serious human rights issues remain and they need to be addressed.” Read more...

Myanmar: fact-finding mission by UN human rights expert

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, will launch his first fact-finding visit to Myanmar since February 2010. He will visit Yangon and Naypyitaw from 21 to 25 August, at the invitation of the Government.

“This mission takes place in a somehow different political context, with a new Government in place since April, following last year’s elections, and my main objective is to assess the human rights situation from that perspective,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. Read more...

Human trafficking: Thailand must show clear leadership against it in the region and beyond, urges UN expert

United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo.The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, urged the Government of Thailand to “do more to combat human trafficking effectively and protect the rights of migrant workers who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labour.”

“Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country,” said the UN expert at the end of her 12-day mission to Thailand from 8 to 19 August 2011. Read more...

Trafficking in persons: UN expert launches first fact-finding mission to Thailand

United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, will begin an official visit to Thailand from 8 to19 August to examine the impact of anti-trafficking measures in the country.

“During my mission, I wish to reach out to a wide range of stakeholders and trafficked persons themselves, so that their voices are heard and can be considered in the national laws, policies and measures related to trafficking in persons,” the Special Rapporteur said. Read more...

Tackling incitement to hatred in the Asia Pacific region

UN Integrated Mission in Timor Leste celebrating the International Day of Peace © UN Photo/ Martine Perret“The demarcation line between freedom of expression and hate speech has increasingly come under focus. International law and most national constitutions recognize that freedom of expression is not absolute and may be restricted within strictly defined parameters,” noted UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, in a statement opening a seminar in Bangkok, Thailand, that sought to better understand legislation, jurisprudence and policies on incitement to hatred in the Asia Pacific region.

“In response to challenges related to freedom of expression and incitement to hatred, many governments have reinforced existing law and introduced new punitive measures”, Pillay added. “To provide protection against abuse, excessive state intervention, loose interpretation and selective application of norms, such measures need to be implemented in accordance with international human rights standards and should be subject to review by competent courts.” Read more...

Malaysia: Government risks undermining democratic progress, say UN experts

UN human rights experts on Monday expressed their dismay at the use of tear gas and water cannons by security authorities against peaceful protestors in Malaysia on Saturday, reportedly leading to injuries and one death, and the arrest of more than 1,600 people at the Bersih 2.0 rally.

“The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including in the form of peaceful protests, is essential for democracy. By declaring the demonstration illegal, sealing off parts of the capital in advance and responding in such a heavy-handed manner against peaceful demonstrators, the Government of Malaysia risks undermining democratic progress in the country,” said Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Read more...

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

This is the final day of my mission to Thailand which began on 16 May 2011. I visited Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Bangkok this time in my efforts to gather information about the situation inside Myanmar where I have not been able to visit. This information is important for preparation of my next report to the UN General Assembly later this year. I met with various stakeholders including civil society and community based organizations, experts, UN officials, and diplomats. I also met with the Foreign Minister of Thailand and Myanmar’s Ambassador to Thailand. I spoke with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by telephone.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution shortly after I presented my last report this March that asked me: “to provide an assessment of any progress made by the Government in relation to its stated intention to transition to a democracy to the General Assembly.”

My findings from this mission are that the situation of ethnic minority groups in the border areas presents serious limitations to the Government’s intention to transition to democracy. Violence continues in many of these areas. Systematic militarization contributes to human rights abuses. These abuses include land confiscation, forced labor, internal displacement, extrajudicial killings and sexual violence. They are widespread, they continue today, and they remain essentially unaddressed by the authorities. Read more...

The right to freedom of expression in South-East Asia

People across the South-East Asia region continue to be imprisoned for peacefully expressing opinions and ideas on the state institutions that govern over them. This violates human rights commitments made by these states at the international level. States’ increasing engagement with regional and international human rights bodies offers the opportunity to highlight such violations which are common to the region and to develop ideas on how to address them at the national level.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has made important strides over recent years in transforming itself into an organisation which is concerned with improving the human rights situation in the region, in addition to its traditional focus on economic development and national security. This progress is illustrated by the two ASEAN bodies that are now up and running with mandates to promote and protect human rights. Read more...