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June 18, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/Politique/2012/06/18/003-loi-78-onu.shtml
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, at the opening of the 20th Special Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
After having expressed its concerns last month, the United Nations has once again criticized the adoption by the National Assembly of Québec of Special Law 78 and its strict restraint on the right to demonstrate.
“Moves to restrict freedom of assembly in many parts of the world are alarming,” declared the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, at the opening of the 20th Special Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, on Monday morning.
”In the context of student protests, I am disappointed by the new legislation passed in Québec that restricts their rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly,” she continued.
In her remarks, Ms. Pillay also cited other offending countries, including Mali, Nepal, Mexico and Russia. The High Commissioner further accused Eritrea of torture and summary executions, and she called to account the perpetrators of violence in Syria.
A standpoint criticized
Premier Jean Charest, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he is attending a UN conference on the environment, underscored the irony of the situation, pointing out that the statement was made in Geneva, where the authorities require 30 days’ notice for a demonstration, whereas Law 78 requires only eight hours’ advance notice including notice of the route.
The PQ leader Pauline Marois, while reiterating her strong opposition to Law 78, nevertheless exclaimed that in all honestly it was difficult to compare Québec to countries where human rights violations are much more severe.
For his part, a spokesperson for the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird stated on Monday that the Government believed that Québec had the right to pass its own laws.
“Canada, including Québec, has robust legal systems through which citizens can challenge laws passed by their elected legislatures,” declared Joseph Lavoie in a communiqué.
“We find it strange that, in her statement today, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights would make such a reference [to Québec] while completely ignoring the grave human rights violations in Iran, Belarus, and Sri Lanka,” he added.
UN Watch, an organization that monitors the performance of the United Nations, for its part described the reference to Québec as “absurd,” emphasizing that Law 78 was passed by a democratically-elected government and that its opponents were able to contest it before the courts.
Last month, student, union, community and environmental organizations in Québec filed two motions at the Montréal courthouse that aim to challenge Special Law 78.
According to lawyer Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, Law 78 should not qualify as an urgent matter for the UN.
“Let’s keep some perspective,” he said. “In Syria, there are people who demonstrate and get slaughtered. In Canada, legislation says you have to give police notice of the route you’re taking.”
UN Watch also pointed out that Commissioner Pillay failed to mention countries where human rights are far more restricted, such as Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
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