Highlighting human rights may be one of UN’s limited victories

The United Nations top human rights official has warned rebels in Syria that actions they take in combatting the regime of Bashar al-Assad would be subject to examination and that they are not immune from prosecution under international law for human rights abuses.

Navi Pillay, the UN Commissioner on Human Rights, provided a status report of human rights from Syria to Africa. In addition to singling out China for abuses, she highlighted the continuation in America of the use of the death penalty.

The Human Rights Council may be one of the few units within the UN that has proven to have an impact.Brookings Institution scholar Ted Piccone writes that while the UN Security Council has failed to bring China and Russia closer toward an acceptable resolution, the UN Human Rights Council has performed ably in shining a light on the human rights abuses.

“The Human Rights Council has taken up not only Syria, but other urgent cases as well. Its emergency session on Libya after Muammar Gaddafi signaled all-out war against civilians led immediately to its dismissal from the Council. It also helped establish the case for the Security Council’s invocation of the responsibility to protect doctrine, an important breakthrough in operationalizing a concept that has protection of civilians at its core,” argues Piccone.


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