UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said Thursday that the recent wave of Middle East and North African protests and revolutions showed a basic need for human rights [text]. Pillay recounted [summary text] the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] in these conflict areas: fact finding missions in Libya, Ivory Coast and Syria [JURIST report] and country offices created in Tunisia and Egypt. Most of her speech was not focused on the UN's efforts, but the courage and inspiration of human rights protesters:
The collective actions of the people of North Africa and the Middle East have reaffirmed the importance and universality of human rights in a way we could not have dreamed of on 1 January this year. We all want, we all deserve, and we are all entitled to have our rights observednot partially, not sometimes, not at the whim of dictators or other repressive rulers and authorities, but all of us, all of the time, everywhere. That is THE message of the Arab Spring, and it is a message that has reverberated all across the world, stimulating discussion and dialogue, and renewed hope in the power of people to realize change. It has also produced some other interesting, unforeseen and important shifts.Pillay also praised the UNHRC's "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution [text, PDF], the first UN resolution to call for an end to sexuality discrimination worldwide [JURIST report]. Pillay also pleaded for more funding for the UNHRC, saying her office is "stretched to breaking point."
Pillay referred to several ongoing conflicts in her speech, including the success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, although she admitted conflict and injustices in both nations still exist. Last week, Tunisia acceded [press release] to the Rome Statute [text] of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], which is now set to become effective [JURIST report] in the country on September 1, 2011. A trial date for former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] was set [JURIST report] for August 3 at the Cairo Criminal Court [MENA report]. However, other countries remain in turmoil. Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] announced this week that an independent commission will investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] related to the country's pro-democracy protests. Khalifa said that the country had already begun to move forward from the violence, but maintained that the commission would seek to uncover who should be held responsible. The ICC also this week issued arrest warrants [decision, PDF] against Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and two of his high-ranking officials, for alleged crimes against the people [JURIST report] of Libya [JURIST backgrounder] to quell the revolt that began last February. Last week, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] announced [text] that it plans to send a panel to investigate the human rights situation [JURIST report] in Yemen [OHCHR backgrounder].