UN rights commissioner begins Tunis visit

Navi Pillay has arrived in Tunis to pledge support for the country`s democratic transition.

Tunis: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay arrived in Tunis on Wednesday to pledge support for the country`s democratic transition and open a new UN human rights office.

It is the first office in a North African country bordering the Mediterranean, Pillay`s office said, its establishment the result of discussions prompted by the ouster of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia`s Foreign Minister Mohamed Mouldi Kefi welcomed Pillay at Tunis-Carthage airport as the commissioner began a two-day visit.

Kefi and Pillay will sign a `host country agreement` before the commissioner meets Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi on Thursday for the opening of the new office in the capital.

Pillay sent a mission to Tunisia in January after a popular uprising led to the end of Ben Ali`s 23-year rule. Discussions about setting up an office in the country began soon after.

The commissioner will pledge her support for efforts to bring about successful democratic transition and the embedding of strong human rights protections in the law and official practices, Pillay`s office said.

"There have already been a number of positive developments in the human rights field since the fall of the Ben Ali government, including ratification of key international human rights treaties, preparations for elections, and the establishment of greater freedom for the population," the statement said. Tunisia last month became the first north African country to recognise the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It is the fourth member of the Arab League to do so, after Djibouti, the Comoros and Jordan.

Bureau Report

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