Friday, March 25, 2011

UN human rights office sends high-level staff to Tunisia and Egypt to assess situation

(Africa Leader) - The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is deploying staff to Tunisia and Egypt to meet with senior officials, civil society groups and others to help map out its role in the wake of the popular uprisings that removed the long-standing regimes in both North African countries.

A five-member OHCHR team will travel to Egypt on Sunday for talks with the Supreme Army Council, Government ministers, judges, lawyers, human rights defenders, youth leaders and others, spokesperson Rupert Colville told journalists today in Geneva.

The team will then make recommendations to High Commissioner Navi Pillay on what should be OHCHR's future role in Egypt after the downfall of leader Hosni Mubarak.In Tunisia, OHCHR has decided to open a country office and is sending a second human rights officer next week to follow up on recommendations made by a team of senior experts who made an assessment mission last month.

Anger about violations of human rights and impunity for perpetrators are among the key concerns expressed during protests that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East since the beginning of the year. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who recently travelled to Egypt and Tunisia following the popular uprisings there, said he was amazed by how even senior government officials were able to talk freely for the first time. "Clearly, the wind of change is sweeping across the region of the Middle East and North Africa," he said in an interview with UN Radio. "I believe this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity where people in the region are expressing their desires and aspirations to achieve genuine freedom, genuine democracy.