The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says millions of people around the world are denied their human rights because of, what she calls, the "scourge of discrimination". Pillay told the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council, that women and ethnic minorities are among those who are most victimized by human-rights abuses.
U.N. Commissioner Navi Pillay says human-rights abuses are increasing in many parts of the world. She says women's human rights continue to be denied or curtailed in too many countries.
She notes there have been recent positive developments in some Persian Gulf states. Yet, Pillay says, the overall situation of women in the region falls well short of international standards.
She notes that indigenous people and ethnic minorities, such as Tibetans or the Roma in Hungary suffer from discrimination and often are subjected to abuse.
She adds that all too often, discrimination and harmful prejudice sow the seeds of war. Pillay says civilians continue to be targets of attacks motivated by ethnic or religious hatred in conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Palestinian territory.
"In some of these conflicts, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples bear the brunt of hostilities. In virtually all of them, women and children suffer disproportionately. Let me reiterate that sexual violence is almost invariably a foreseeable consequence in situations of armed conflict and in a climate that fosters mass atrocities," she said.
Pillay describes what she calls another alarming global trend - attacks against peaceful opponents and critics of people in power. She says human rights advocates face arrest, abduction, torture and even death.
"We should all be dismayed by the recent sentencing of political opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to a further period of house arrest by the Myanmar [Burma] authorities. Her unfair and arbitrary detention, along with that of more than 2,000 other political prisoners, makes a mockery of Myanmar's commitment to democratic transition. And I call for their immediate and unconditional release," she said.
Pillay says governments have to do more to protect human rights defenders. She notes that the issues of political participation, and free and fair elections have a direct impact on the realization of human rights. She urges the U.N. Human Rights Council to be vigilant, and to scrutinize and condemn abuses wherever they are found.