In a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Louise Arbour expressed her concerns about serious rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Burma. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva where the Council began a three-week session on Monday.
In her speech, the U.N.'s Chief Human Rights Official, Louise Arbour, flagged several issues of particular concern. She said it was up to members of the U.N. Council to do what they can to bring the perpetrators of gross violations to account.
Arbour, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor, is adamant that those who commit crimes should be punished. Last year, she visited the Democratic Republic of Congo. She said the trip focused primarily on the question of impunity.
She expressed her dismay that since her visit, no progress has been made in getting justice for the many victims of human rights abuse.
"I continue to be concerned with the lack of progress in the DRC," said Arbour. "None of the perpetrators of the serious crimes committed during the first six months of 2007 have been arrested and brought to justice. Interference by military and political authorities in the administration of justice is prevalent, particularly in high-profile cases. Recent trials raise serious questions about the independence of the judiciary."
In July, Arbour's office issued a report accusing Congolese soldiers and police of having used excessive and indiscriminate lethal force to suppress clashes in western Bas-Congo province. In January and February, 105 people were reportedly killed during demonstrations there.
Arbour visited Iran earlier this month. Government restrictions on dissent are reportedly increasing there. In meetings with government officials, the High Commissioner said she told them they have to protect the right to peaceful public expression. She said she expressed particular concern about the execution of juveniles.
Iran's tough Islamic law applies the death penalty for crimes such as murder, rape, adultery, armed robbery and drug smuggling, even to young people.
During her speech, Arbour expressed dismay at the suppression of peaceful protest in Burma. She once again urged the authorities to release detainees and political prisoners and to ensure respect for fundamental rights.
During the session, the 47-member Council will examine the human-rights records of a number of countries and look at global phenomena such as torture, disappearances, arbitrary arrest and extra-judicial executions.