The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should address the Security Council on a regular basis, Human Rights Watch urged today. Mary Robinson's speech today marked the first-ever appearance by a U.N. Human Rights Commissioner before the Security Council.

"It's about time for the Commissioner to appear before the Security Council," said Joanna Weschler, U.N. representative of Human Rights Watch. "It should have happened long ago. Most of the conflicts the Council deals with these days have human rights violations as their root cause, so Mary Robinson should be a regular visitor there."

Ms. Robinson, who returned from a trip to the East Timor area earlier this week, spoke about conflicts in East Timor, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, Colombia, Cambodia, and Angola. She called for a minimum age of 18 for conscription of soldiers. She supported the treaty on an international criminal court and called for its speedy ratification.

Ms. Robinson urged the Council to consider human rights emergencies as immediate threats to security, and said that civilians are no longer victims of war, they are instruments of wars -- a situation she described as a "strange and terrible state of affairs."

Ms. Robinson was asked to speak by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has frequently emphasized the link between human rights violations and security issues, a link that some members of the Council have steadfastly rejected.

For the last several years, the Council has invited many other relevant United Nations experts to brief it on issues on the Council's agenda. It has heard briefings from the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict, to name just a few. But several efforts to invite the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including last month with respect to Angola, have been blocked by governments eager to prevent the Council's concern with human rights.