Friday, June 06, 2014

UN Human Rights Council's 26th session likely to put on agenda Dalits' caste-based discrimination

By Our Representative
Advance release of the opening remarks, which Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will be delivering at the Human Rights Council’s 26th session on June 10 at Geneva, reveals that the top UN body is all set to highlight issues pertaining to caste and Dalit discrimination as one of the major agendas during future discussions on human rights. Suggesting that caste-based discrimination as equal to the discrimination based on religion and race, Pillai, who is to be replaced by Jordan's Zeid Al Hussein soon, regrets, certain countries refuse to discuss contentious issues related to discrimination.
Calling upon everyone to be treated equally, Pillay in her statement says, “Dalit or Brahmin, Peul or Pole, gay or heterosexual, tycoon or pauper, woman, child or man – regardless of ethnicity, age, form of disability, beliefs; or economic might” are all “human beings are equal in dignity.” Insisting that “all, without discrimination, are entitled to the same rights”, Pillay says, "I urge this Council to continue to maintain the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, including the right to development."
Pillay particularly takes exception to the manner in which some countries (she does not name which) prefer not to discuss cases of discrimination. Saying that for some countries addressing such cases may mean “mean brutal anti-terror tactics”, Pillay says, but for others, it would mean “inhumane treatment of minorities, or migrants.”
Pillay particularly expresses concern over the fact that “certain states (countries) may feel that lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex people – or women, or persons with albinism, or people of certain castes, religion, race – somehow have less right than others to live a life of dignity.”
She emphasises, “Effective human rights advocacy must necessarily open a Pandora’s box of hidden abuses. It does so to let in light and air, so that work may begin to ensure better governance and justice. All human rights violations are illegitimate, whether directed against dissenters and critics; migrants; minorities; indigenous peoples; or people of specific gender, religion, class, caste or race.”
Made available by Marie Gertz Schlundt, assistant programme officer, International Dalit Solidarity Network (ISDN), which is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Pillay further says, “All people deserve accountable and democratic governance under the rule of law. In developed and developing countries alike, corruption undermines social justice and the right to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development.”
She adds, “Political leaders must be accountable, and respond without discrimination to popular aspirations, addressing the needs and rights of the poor and marginalized in order to fully realise the right to development. I hope that states can bridge their political divide on the right to development.” 
While recognising that the “threat of terrorism is a clear challenge”, she underlines, “In coming years we must also struggle against abusive counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactics that violate the rights to life, freedom from forced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and torture. The point of counter-terror measures is to protect the rule of law and human rights — not to undermine them.”
“It will also be necessary to step up our work to maintain the right to privacy, in the face of governmental and corporate attempts to create a surveillance society via new technologies. And there can be little doubt that the global climate crisis is also a human rights crisis – most urgently for people in coastal communities and small island States, but also for all of humanity, as it increasingly threatens health, food, water, housing, and other essential and universal human rights”, she points out. 

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