South 2 North

Human rights at a crossroads

We discuss the current state of human rights in the world and ask if governments are doing enough to protect them.

Last Modified: 22 Apr 2013 14:35
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No subject is off limits in the first ever global talk show hosted from Africa in which Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

This week on South2North we talk to Navi Pillay, the "moral conscious" of the United Nations, about the current state of human rights in the world.

Governments around the world are obligated by law to protect these and other fundamental freedoms. But what happens when governments don’t comply? Who decides which rights are more important than others?

Pillay grapples with these dilemmas in her daily work as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

She has spent more than four decades dealing with the darker sides of humanity, including eight years on the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda after the genocide, and five years as a judge at the International Criminal Court.

Pillay comments on current issues in Syria and Guantanamo Bay, as well as the humanitarian crisis in North Korea.

"For almost four decades the UN has been trying to get North Korea, the DPRK, to address the human rights situation. They appointed a special rapporteur years ago, every year he reports on the situation. I myself, I have to confess, didn’t do much over my first four years, I kept calling in the ambassador, and saying 'Can I come visit your country to see for myself?', and they wouldn’t let me in. And so finally I saw people who had managed to escape, they had been prisoners in these camps.

"This young woman, she said her entire family had been picked up and put in these prison camps. They never knew why .... Years and years later they discovered they had some obscure uncle whom they didn’t know existed, he had fled to South Korea, and they picked up the whole family and put them in this camp. And it’s almost like slave labour. Very little food, they were starving, when her baby was born she had to cover her new-born baby with leaves," she says. 

Like Pillay, our second guest, Thando Hopa has chosen the law to make life better for some. She uses her unique condition to raise awareness about the plight of people with albinism.

"I think kids indeed were mean [to me]. But I think adults … they’re not mean, they’re malicious. Kids don’t know malice as yet, they’re still learning it. They’re just mean, they just see something different and they pinpoint it. Adults know exactly how to hurt a child, and I felt I was more hurt by what adults did than children," she says.


South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.


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