The twenty-fifth session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] opened Monday amid calls for stronger protections for activists calling out human rights violations. In her opening remarks [press release], the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged states to take a proactive approach to the protection of human rights, especially in light of recent protests, stating:
Streets, airwaves, entire countries are buzzing with demands for economic, social and political justice. More and more, people are confidently laying claim to their rights. This Council has given space to them and the civil society that represents them in its deliberations, panels, and side events. Vigilance however is important. While we must continue to ensure civil society engagement at the international level, this is no guarantor that it will be complemented at the national level. We need to work together to ensure that the space, voice and knowledge of civil society is nurtured in all our countries.At the conclusion of Pillay's statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] also gave remarks, highlighting the recently launched Rights Up Front Initiative [official website], an action plan designed to ensure that human rights considerations are the highest priority in UN activities [press release], seeking to respond to human rights violations before they become "mass atrocities".
The UNHRC has previously reported on widespread human rights violations occurring in Syria, Iran, Myanmar, and North Korea [JURIST reports]. In February, UN human rights investigators released a report [JURIST report] on abuses in North Korea to the UNHRC for debate in its March session. The 372-page report detailed widespread crimes against humanity that the investigators believe should be brought to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Also in February, Pillay asked the UNHRC to set up an independent probe to ensure accountability for the war crimes committed during the 26-year Sri Lankan Civil War [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that ended in 2009. In November, the president of the UNHRC, Remigiusz Henczel [official website], presented an annual report, claiming the UNHRC achieved significant progress [JURIST report], adopting "107 resolutions, decisions and President's statements" within the last year.