Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty has urged the UN to support human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, as protests calling for reform continued to erupt.
In a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in New York yesterday, Shetty urged the UN to do more to help combat human rights violations in Libya, and to push for human rights to be put at the centre of political reform in Egypt and Tunisia.
The UN Secretary-General is visiting Egypt and Tunisia later this week, and his Special Envoy Abdul Ilah Khatib has arrived in Libya.
In their meeting Shetty asked Ban to make it clear to the Libyan authorities, and to Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi in particular, that further violations of human rights will not be tolerated.
“Now more than ever, we need the United Nations to help put human rights at the heart of reform in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Salil Shetty.
“The UN must grasp the opportunity to reach out to youth and people’s organizations who have done so much to push for human rights and political reform in the region.”
Amnesty International has welcomed proposals for change in Egypt, but remains concerned that people’s organizations, including women’s groups, are being excluded from the reform process.
Reports of violence against protesters and trials of civilians before military courts are still ongoing.
The organisation is also concerned that Tunisia’s progress in expanding political rights is being hampered by continued violence against demonstrators, and a lack of clarity in how discrimination against women and girls will be eliminated.
Ban told Shetty that the UN was making its best efforts to address human rights problems generally, but admitted that there were still some unmet expectations, including in the area of preventing human rights violations and impunity for human rights abusers.
Shetty also raised a range of other human rights issues at the New York meeting.
He emphasised the importance of the UN’s impartial peacekeeping and human rights monitoring role in the Côte d’Ivoire crisis, in light of an escalating humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights violations being committed by supporters of both Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara.
Ban was asked to make public the soon to be published report of the UN Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, and for a fully international commission of inquiry into human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government.
Shetty also urged the UN Secretary-General to put human rights at the centre of the UN’s Global Strategy on Women and Children’s Health, and to make human rights a component of the UN mandate in Western Sahara.
Amnesty International reiterated its strong support for the UN’s pursuit of international justice, and urged Ban to resist political interference in the work of the International Criminal Court, such as in the case of Kenya’s post-election violence or the arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir.
Ban saluted Amnesty for its work towards many of the same goals as the UN and congratulated the organization on its 50th anniversary this year.