Algeria Attacks Rights Chief and Her Office

The U.N. Human Rights Council convened this morning to discuss reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

Algeria took the opportunity to attack her and the work of her office. While paying lip service to “respecting the independence” of both the High Commissioner and the Council, it said it is “time to address the relationship between the Council and the High Commissioner.” It complained about her report on civilians in armed conflict, which highlighted situations around the world, including in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Colombia, Somalia, the Congo, Sudan, and Chad. Algeria argued that these different situations should be treated with radically different approaches, considering that “The situation in Pakistan is a situation of defense and, in Palestine, we are talking about a situation stemming from foreign military occupation.” It also challenged the High Commissioner’s call for an independent inquiry into the human rights violations in Sri Lanka, pointing to the fact that the Council majority had rejected such a proposition. “Nobody has the right to challenge the Council, which has decided not to have an independent inquiry in Sri Lanka,” it said. Moreover, Algeria criticized the High Commissioner’s declaration supporting freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. “This question has no ground in international human rights instruments in force so has no place in her mandate,” it said. Lastly, Algeria noted “violations of the code of conduct by several Special Rapporteurs,” saying it hopes “these will be adhered to in the future.”

On the other hand, a number of European Union States, Switzerland, and Canada stressed their support for the independence of the High Commissioner and her office.

“We are against attempts by certain delegations to orient what you say and limit your autonomy,” Switzerland told the High Commissioner. “In the same light, the independence of Special Rapporteurs is crucial and must be preserved.”

A number of EU States commended the High Commissioner regarding her support for holding the recent Special Session on Sri Lanka.

A myriad of states from all regions praised the High Commissioner for her work towards ensuring a “successful” outcome of the Durban Review Conference (“Durban II”). (Included Switzerland, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Ireland, and Morocco). Switzerland commended the “consensus” achieved at Durban II, despite the fact that a number of Western States boycotted the conference because of the outcome document’s failure to strictly adhere to all their red-lines as well as the platform given to Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

A number of Western States also took the opportunity to raise specific country situations. The USA made a veiled reference to the Tiananmen Square massacre, given that yesterday marked the passing of twenty years since the horrific event. “This week and month in particular, the U.S. recalls the courage of those who stand for respect of human rights and demand transparency in government, even risking their own rights, freedoms, and even lives,” it said.

Slovenia said it is “alarmed by the grave situation in Sudan,” including the execution of four minors (under the age of 18).

France said “Sexual violence has reached unbearable levels in the Congo and Sudan.” It continued, “We must work more than ever in investigating questions of impunity. We need impartial investigations of allegations around the world, whether in Gaza or Sri Lanka.”

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