People shout slogans to show their solidarity with the residents of Sidi Bouzid during a demonstration on December 27, 2010 in Tunis.

© 2010 Getty Images

The High Commissioner has stressed that producing concrete results that matter in the lives of people is her office's paramount goal.  Her report illustrates the valuable contribution that OHCHR makes in many different areas of work.

The High Commissioner has spoken about the events that have and are taking place in the Middle East - a time of awakening and reckoning in the words of the Pakistani Ambassador.

The events in the Middle East compel us to reflect on the fact that the world was unwilling to look critically at the systematic suppression of civil society in Tunisia and the curtailment of rights under the permanent state of emergency in Egypt, until the people suffering from those abuses rose up and demanded change.  These developments should be a wake-up call to those States who have subordinated the needs of victims to their desire for a cooperative/consensual approach with states that are responsible for human rights abuses - including in the Human Rights Council. 

The Council must find a format to debate the ongoing situation in countries where people continue to take their protests to the streets in order to claim their rights. The repression of peaceful demonstrations must be condemned. The Governments of countries such as Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq and Iran must be reminded of their international obligations and the root causes of the unrest addressed.  Given the enormous changes that are underway in the region, the High Commissioner should consider appointing a Special Envoy to monitor ongoing developments on the ground.  A Special Envoy could bolster efforts to provide human rights-related support to states in transition, help ensure that lessons learned are shared across the region and beyond, and identify areas of concern relating to human rights and make recommendations for quick action to address such problems. 

The events in the Middle East have also exposed those who made supposedly pragmatic calculations about the value of supporting repressive regimes, either for their alleged stability or their resources.  It's not enough for those who provided aid that was essential to keeping such regimes in power to congratulate protestors who overthrew tyranny. They must look critically at the many additional places in the world where they remain on the wrong side of history.

The High Commissioner has highlighted the important role her office can play in providing technical assistance as well as monitoring and reporting in states undergoing transition. As part of their reckoning states must acknowledge that entrenched practices of abuse will not simply fade away. There are enormous opportunities to improve human rights protection in this region and beyond, but there are no guarantees that the gains made today will not be reversed.  It is the responsibility of the international community as a whole and the Human Rights Council in particular to monitor developments on the ground and assist these transitions in order to ensure that the will of the people and their aspirations for the realization of their human rights are truly met.

OHCHR's engagement is crucial to help ensure that the difficult human rights challenges Egypt and Tunisia face are tackled effectively and to avoid backsliding. As the High Commissioner describes, that process is underway in Tunisia. Similarly, Egypt should invite an OHCHR mission that could not only provide technical support as Egypt grapples with a challenging legal transition but also could provide independent monitoring and reporting on Egypt's progress.

Mr. President we would like to comment on the High Commissioners concerns relating to the situation in Belarus. The Council must condemn the arbitrary arrest and wrongful prosecution of hundreds of people arrested in the aftermath of the December 19, 2010 demonstration protesting the election outcome, At least 639 people, according to official statistics, were arrested, and human rights activists believe that the actual number could be significantly higher. The majority of the detainees suffered serious abuses during their arrest, trial, and detention, according to a report by the Legal Transformation Center and the Independent Observation Mission, the findings of which were confirmed by testimony collected by Human Rights Watch in Belarus.

Finally Mr. President, regarding the High Commissioner appeal to ensure accountability for torture, Human Rights Watch believes that President Bush's bold and blatant admission that he ordered water-boarding is an obvious place to begin a criminal investigation. The US government needs to demonstrate that no official, including an ex-president, is above the law by authorizing prosecutors to investigate and prosecute this serious crime.  

The High Commissioner has stressed that producing concrete results that matter in the lives of people is her office's paramount goal.  Her report illustrates the valuable contribution that OHCHR makes in many different areas of work.

The High Commissioner has spoken about the events that have and are taking place in the Middle East - a time of awakening and reckoning in the words of the Pakistani Ambassador.

The events in the Middle East compel us to reflect on the fact that the world was unwilling to look critically at the systematic suppression of civil society in Tunisia and the curtailment of rights under the permanent state of emergency in Egypt, until the people suffering from those abuses rose up and demanded change.  These developments should be a wake-up call to those States who have subordinated the needs of victims to their desire for a cooperative/consensual approach with states that are responsible for human rights abuses - including in the Human Rights Council. 

The Council must find a format to debate the ongoing situation in countries where people continue to take their protests to the streets in order to claim their rights. The repression of peaceful demonstrations must be condemned. The Governments of countries such as Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq and Iran must be reminded of their international obligations and the root causes of the unrest addressed.  Given the enormous changes that are underway in the region, the High Commissioner should consider appointing a Special Envoy to monitor ongoing developments on the ground.  A Special Envoy could bolster efforts to provide human rights-related support to states in transition, help ensure that lessons learned are shared across the region and beyond, and identify areas of concern relating to human rights and make recommendations for quick action to address such problems. 

The events in the Middle East have also exposed those who made supposedly pragmatic calculations about the value of supporting repressive regimes, either for their alleged stability or their resources.  It's not enough for those who provided aid that was essential to keeping such regimes in power to congratulate protestors who overthrew tyranny. They must look critically at the many additional places in the world where they remain on the wrong side of history.

The High Commissioner has highlighted the important role her office can play in providing technical assistance as well as monitoring and reporting in states undergoing transition. As part of their reckoning states must acknowledge that entrenched practices of abuse will not simply fade away. There are enormous opportunities to improve human rights protection in this region and beyond, but there are no guarantees that the gains made today will not be reversed.  It is the responsibility of the international community as a whole and the Human Rights Council in particular to monitor developments on the ground and assist these transitions in order to ensure that the will of the people and their aspirations for the realization of their human rights are truly met.

OHCHR's engagement is crucial to help ensure that the difficult human rights challenges Egypt and Tunisia face are tackled effectively and to avoid backsliding. As the High Commissioner describes, that process is underway in Tunisia. Similarly, Egypt should invite an OHCHR mission that could not only provide technical support as Egypt grapples with a challenging legal transition but also could provide independent monitoring and reporting on Egypt's progress.

Mr. President we would like to comment on the High Commissioners concerns relating to the situation in Belarus. The Council must condemn the arbitrary arrest and wrongful prosecution of hundreds of people arrested in the aftermath of the December 19, 2010 demonstration protesting the election outcome, At least 639 people, according to official statistics, were arrested, and human rights activists believe that the actual number could be significantly higher. The majority of the detainees suffered serious abuses during their arrest, trial, and detention, according to a report by the Legal Transformation Center and the Independent Observation Mission, the findings of which were confirmed by testimony collected by Human Rights Watch in Belarus.

Finally Mr. President, regarding the High Commissioner appeal to ensure accountability for torture, Human Rights Watch believes that President Bush's bold and blatant admission that he ordered water-boarding is an obvious place to begin a criminal investigation. The US government needs to demonstrate that no official, including an ex-president, is above the law by authorizing prosecutors to investigate and prosecute this serious crime.