In his first address to the UN Human Rights Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today questioned whether the world’s highest human rights body was “fully meeting the high expectations” of the international community, in particular the Council’s promotion of “the universal application of human rights values…without favor, without selectivity, without being impacted by any political machinations around the world.”

To see the Secretary-General’s full remarks, click here.

Foreign ministers and other high officials attended the opening of the main annual session, which runs all month. Many of the speeches outlined national human rights policy.

The highlights:

  • Jorge Sampaio, the UN Representative of the Alliance of Civilization, stated that “the universality of human rights is under siege.”
  • Cuba‘s foreign minister blasted the United States, accusing the US embargo as the “longest and most cruel in history.” Cuba also lauded its recent election as an example of democratic values.
  • Serbia‘s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vuk Jeremic, condemned Kosovo’s declaration of independence as an endorsement of the “gross and systematic” violations of human rights of Kosovar Serbs.
  • Mohamed Ali Al-Mardi, the Sudanese minister of Justice, highlighted his country’s “full cooperation” with all organs of the UN human rights machinery. After vigorously defending the government’s actions in Darfur, Mr. Al-Mardi accused Israeli forces of killing Palestinian women and children “in cold blood.”
  • France‘s State Secretary on foreign affairs and human rights, Rama Yade, pledge that France sought to achieve greater women’s rights, as well as additional scrutiny for Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Myanmar.

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