Press briefing notes on South Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela

4 May 2012

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subjects:
(1) South Sudan
(2) Zimbabwe
(3) Venezuela

(1) South Sudan

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is to make her first visit to South Sudan from 8-12 May. During her mission to the world’s newest State, the UN Human Rights Chief will meet President Salva Kiir Mayardit, a number of Government ministers, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations, the Chairperson of the Jonglei Peace and Reconciliation Committee and other government and non-governmental actors, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ms. Hilde Johnson, and other officials of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), including its Human Rights Division.

Topics to be discussed will include concerns about the protection of civilians amid the hostilities that have flared up along the border with Sudan, as well as a range of other human rights issues. More details to follow in a media advisory later today.

(2) Zimbabwe

Pillay will also on 20 May begin the first ever mission by a UN Human Rights chief to Zimbabwe, at the invitation of the Government. During the five-day mission, Pillay is due to meet President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Legal Affairs and other ministers, as well as the Chief Justice, the Speaker of Parliament, President of Senate and Thematic Committee of Human Rights. Pillay will also meet with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and members of civil society in the country.

The High Commissioner is considering a number of field visits within and outside Harare, including to the Marange Diamond Fields. During these visits, she will also meet local communities and civil society members in the area to listen to their experiences and views. A more detailed media advisory will follow later.

(3) Venezuela

We are concerned at Venezuela's announcement that it is establishing a State committee to evaluate the possibility of withdrawing from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Regional human rights bodies play a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights mechanisms and reinforce universal human rights standards and treaties -- something that has been repeatedly recognized by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

The IACHR, which is more than 50 years old and is a highly respected body, has in particular had a very positive impact in the region, and it has been crucial in obtaining justice for large numbers of victims of human rights violations, particularly during the period when dictatorships ruled many countries in the region. The IACHR’s work has also played a key role in the transition to democracy.

The Office of the High Commissioner cooperates with all regional human rights organisations -- including the European Union, the African Union, ASEAN, and the League of Arab States -- and has a long established and solid relationship with IACHR, in particular in areas such as citizen security, juvenile justice, torture prevention and prison conditions.

In addition, there has been consistent and productive collaboration between Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and the IACHR Rapporteurs, most notably on issues relating to freedom of expression, the rights of indigenous peoples, and torture.

We would like to encourage the Venezuelan Government, and all other States in the Americas, to continue to cooperate with regional and international human rights mechanisms, and urge them not to take any measures that would weaken human rights protection - not just in Venezuela but also with potentially negative ramifications for people all across the continent.

ENDS
For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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