Adherence to Universal Human Rights Norms and Standards in Public Interest Litigation
Address by Judge Navi Pillay
Recent comments, including at Wits University, appear to question the legitimacy of Human Rights and public interest litigants by juxtaposing them as alienated from social or grassroots movements, donor dependent, and hence donor – driven and serving western interests.
Having engaged in these debates for over fifty years; and more recently as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, I take issue with some of these assertions, whether they concern the Southern Africa Litigation Centre,(the public interest law centre that brought Omar Al Bashir lawsuit before the South African Courts) or civil society organisations generally. It is important, since all of us seek the same goals, namely, the betterment of society that we adopt a more inclusive dialogue, respect diverse approaches and remain true to facts.
It is a matter of concern that several countries have used harmful propaganda against human rights advocates, journalists, and artists as an excuse to stifle criticism. Human Rights defenders and journalists are subject to arrests and detention. Countries have adopted legislation, banning NGOs or imposing restrictions on NGO and opposition activities, cutting off their funds and labelling them as donor – driven foreign agents, intent on destabilizing institutions. Public interest litigation has been particularly targeted, in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Russia.
Governments tend to perceive NGO exposures of violations as harmful to the image of the country instead of taking action to protect victims against such violations. There may well be concerns over foreign funding since donors do come with their own agendas that are not local priorities. The answer is for governments to provide funding and support for civil society organisations who are working to ensure that good laws are being implemented.
Please download the full Keynote Address by Judge Navi Pillay at PILG 2015 on 22 July from here