The 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council opened in Geneva today with UN Secretary General António Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein calling on the Council to ensure the rights of all communities are protected around the world.
The session will see Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein submit a report on Sri Lanka and a discussion also taking place on the progress made so far on addressing the issue of accountability during the war.
In his annual report, which has already been submitted to the Council, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein notes that in Sri Lanka, his office supported National consultations on establishing credible, effective and comprehensive transitional justice mechanisms, and provided advice on domestic screening processes and frameworks for the protection of victims and witnesses.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also notes that his office advised the Government on the establishment of a domestic screening process for personnel identified for deployment to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera is leading a delegation to the session and he will deliver Sri Lanka’s National statement tomorrow.
In his opening speech during the 34th session today, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that when a State accedes to a human rights treaty, enshrines those obligations in constitutional and domestic law, and implements them, then with the passage of time the average citizen – the individual holder of those rights – may take them for granted.
“It is like breathing air. One does not think several thousand times a day about the need to inhale oxygen – even though one’s very existence depends on it happening, each time. Only when the air supply is cut off does its significance become shockingly acute. Similarly, it is only when rights are no longer upheld, the individual concerned understands with sharp clarity just how critical they were to a meaningful, dignified existence,” he said.
He said that political leaders who today wage campaigns against universal human rights, or threaten withdrawal from international or regional treaties and the institutions which uphold them, must recall what the world has achieved over seven decades – and what the world stands to lose if their threats succeed in choking off universal human rights. (Colombo Gazette)