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Migrants, Refugees' Rights to Top UN Council Agenda

  • Lisa Schlein

Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) speaks to media about the refugee crisis in Europe, following their bilateral meeting at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 4, 2015.

Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) speaks to media about the refugee crisis in Europe, following their bilateral meeting at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 4, 2015.

The human rights of migrants and refugees will top the agenda of the upcoming session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The council’s 30th regular session opens Monday and is scheduled to run until October 2.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, will kick off the three week session with an oral update of emerging crises and situations around the world. German Ambassador and President of the Council Joachim Ruecker says the migrant and refugee situation in Europe and elsewhere will be a major focus of the speech.

“The topic of migration and refugees poses a significant challenge for us all, not just the countries of origin, but the countries of transition and the countries of destination," said Ruecker. "This is a situation we must address by looking also at the root causes of these movements. And human rights are essential in all aspects of this crisis.”

Ruecker says lack of respect for human rights is very often the root cause behind migration. He says lack of respect for peoples’ civil and political rights or social and economic rights frequently spurs people to flee their countries of origin.

Migrants arrive at the Westbahnhof railroadstation in Vienna, on September 5, 2015 as hundreds of migrants arrive by bus and train from Hungary to continue their journey to Germany.

Migrants arrive at the Westbahnhof railroadstation in Vienna, on September 5, 2015 as hundreds of migrants arrive by bus and train from Hungary to continue their journey to Germany.

Detention, disappearances

The 47-member council will be faced with a very heavy agenda of global rights violations. Human rights experts will present reports on issues such as arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and torture.

Thirty country situations will be highlighted including investigative reports on the human rights situation in Syria and Ukraine. The council will hold a panel discussion on the human rights of North Korea with a focus on international abductions of foreigners.

War crimes

A high level government delegation from Sri Lanka will be coming to Geneva ahead of a crucial report on alleged war crimes committed during the country’s 30-year civil war. The country's former president failed to investigate allegations of abuse committed by both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels in the waning days of the war. So, the council last year decided to mount its own investigation.

The report will be presented later in the session. However, in anticipation of that event, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will address the council on the opening day. The 47-members are expected to vote on a resolution co-sponsored by the United States on this unresolved human rights tragedy at the end of the session.

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