In the wake of World War 2 the Universal Human Rights were drawn up at the then brand new United Nations. These rights are now indeed known universally. The Human Rights branch has grown into one of the pillars of the UN. But criticism of this department is on the rise for years, also after some fundamental reforms of this body. This photo-documentary takes a look at the 'Human Rights machine' from three different perspectives; the fieldworker, the special rapporteur and at the meeting halls in Geneva.Wim Klerkx, 2005-2007.

In the wake of World War 2 the Universal Human Rights were drawn up at the then brand new United Nations. These rights are now indeed known universally. The Human Rights branch has grown into one of the pillars of the UN. But criticism of this department is on the rise for years, also after some fundamental reforms of this body. This photo-documentary takes a look at the 'Human Rights machine' from three different perspectives; the fieldworker, the special rapporteur and at the meeting halls in Geneva.
Wim Klerkx, 2005-2007.

UN fieldworker Roberto Mignone and his boss Michael Frühling, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, in the UN HCHR office in Cali. Invited by the state of Colombia, the UN monitors the Human Rights situation in Colombia. From the head-office in Bogota and 3 regional offices, fieldworkers try to maintain up-to-date information mainly about armed groups violating Human Rights in Colombia.

UN fieldworker Roberto Mignone and his boss Michael Frühling, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, in the UN HCHR office in Cali. Invited by the state of Colombia, the UN monitors the Human Rights situation in Colombia. From the head-office in Bogota and 3 regional offices, fieldworkers try to maintain up-to-date information mainly about armed groups violating Human Rights in Colombia.

Roberto Mignone visits the inhabitants of Valle de Cauca in south-west Colombia. Along the Cauca-river, an unpaved road winds through small settlements inhabited by farmers. The river flows through a mountainous rainforest where rebels of FARC and ELN are active. The road ends at a dam that generates electricity for the region. At the dam is a base of the colombian army.

Roberto Mignone visits the inhabitants of Valle de Cauca in south-west Colombia. Along the Cauca-river, an unpaved road winds through small settlements inhabited by farmers. The river flows through a mountainous rainforest where rebels of FARC and ELN are active. The road ends at a dam that generates electricity for the region. At the dam is a base of the colombian army.

Roberto Mignone en een vrijwilliger van een lokale mensenrechten-organisatie nemen getuigenissen op van bewoners van de Cauca vallei waar door verschillende gewapende groeperingen regelmatig mensenrechten worden geschonden. Er zijn vooral klachten over een nabij gelegerde eenheid van het Colombiaanse leger die onder een nieuwe bevelhebber agressiever zijn geworden.

Roberto Mignone en een vrijwilliger van een lokale mensenrechten-organisatie nemen getuigenissen op van bewoners van de Cauca vallei waar door verschillende gewapende groeperingen regelmatig mensenrechten worden geschonden. Er zijn vooral klachten over een nabij gelegerde eenheid van het Colombiaanse leger die onder een nieuwe bevelhebber agressiever zijn geworden.

In Valle de Cauca, Roberto Mignone and a volunteer from a local Human Rights NGO ask the population about the latest developments in the armed struggle between FARC, ELN and government troops and the impact on the inhabitants of the valley. Several interviewees point out that the armed groups have become less abusive since Roberto regularly visits the area.

In Valle de Cauca, Roberto Mignone and a volunteer from a local Human Rights NGO ask the population about the latest developments in the armed struggle between FARC, ELN and government troops and the impact on the inhabitants of the valley. Several interviewees point out that the armed groups have become less abusive since Roberto regularly visits the area.

Roberto Mignone peeks inside a house where a few moths back a man was killed. Roberto tries to follow the road up the river once a month to keep an eye on the developments. His reports appear in the statistics that will eventually be presented during regular meetings of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Roberto Mignone peeks inside a house where a few moths back a man was killed. Roberto tries to follow the road up the river once a month to keep an eye on the developments. His reports appear in the statistics that will eventually be presented during regular meetings of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

During a lunch at the army base, Roberto Mignone has a meeting with captain Miranda, the new commander of a mountain-battalion based at a reservoir and dam in the Cauca-river. Roberto confronts Miranda with complaints and allegations of the local population of violence and abuse by his soldiers. Miranda denies and explains that his country is at war and that Roberto lets himself be used by the rebels. Roberto points out that the captain has an obligation to not just defend the laws of Colombia but also abide by them.

During a lunch at the army base, Roberto Mignone has a meeting with captain Miranda, the new commander of a mountain-battalion based at a reservoir and dam in the Cauca-river. Roberto confronts Miranda with complaints and allegations of the local population of violence and abuse by his soldiers. Miranda denies and explains that his country is at war and that Roberto lets himself be used by the rebels. Roberto points out that the captain has an obligation to not just defend the laws of Colombia but also abide by them.

After a meeting of 30 minutes, Roberto says goodbye to captain Miranda at the gate of the army base. With visits like this one, Roberto tries to develop some trust with the captain despite the allegations back and forth. Apart from letting the captain know that his actions are being watched and reported on, Roberto finds it almost as important to bring the concept of Human Rights into the army base.

After a meeting of 30 minutes, Roberto says goodbye to captain Miranda at the gate of the army base. With visits like this one, Roberto tries to develop some trust with the captain despite the allegations back and forth. Apart from letting the captain know that his actions are being watched and reported on, Roberto finds it almost as important to bring the concept of Human Rights into the army base.

Special UN rapporteur for 'Freedom of Religion or Belief' Asma Jahangir during the parting press-conference of her official fact-finding visit to Angola. Seated between two interpreters, her assistant (far left) and the head of the UN mission in Angola (far right) she elaborates on her first conclusions of the country-visit.

Special UN rapporteur for 'Freedom of Religion or Belief' Asma Jahangir during the parting press-conference of her official fact-finding visit to Angola. Seated between two interpreters, her assistant (far left) and the head of the UN mission in Angola (far right) she elaborates on her first conclusions of the country-visit.

During her official fact-finding visit to Angola, Asma Jahangir is welcomed in a madras in Luanda. Jahangir is a well-known lawyer, Human Rights activist and chair-woman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. A few months a year, she works as one of the more than 30 independent special rapporteurs and experts for Human Rights of the United Nations. Her mandate is 'Freedom of Religion and Belief'.

During her official fact-finding visit to Angola, Asma Jahangir is welcomed in a madras in Luanda. Jahangir is a well-known lawyer, Human Rights activist and chair-woman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. A few months a year, she works as one of the more than 30 independent special rapporteurs and experts for Human Rights of the United Nations. Her mandate is 'Freedom of Religion and Belief'.

Jahangir during her official visit to France. Here, she meets with the head of the Russian Orthodox church in France. An official fact-finding country-visit is usually a few days to a week long, with each day 4 to 6 visits or meetings.

Jahangir during her official visit to France. Here, she meets with the head of the Russian Orthodox church in France. An official fact-finding country-visit is usually a few days to a week long, with each day 4 to 6 visits or meetings.

Jahangir visits a mosque in Luanda, the capital of Angola. During an open discussion, visitors of the mosque explain what problems they experience in mainly Christian Angola.

Jahangir visits a mosque in Luanda, the capital of Angola. During an open discussion, visitors of the mosque explain what problems they experience in mainly Christian Angola.

After visiting a mosque, Jahangir and her hosts, assistants and interpreters take a walk in a suburb of Luanda where many muslims live.

After visiting a mosque, Jahangir and her hosts, assistants and interpreters take a walk in a suburb of Luanda where many muslims live.

At a Christian prayer-house in Luanda, jahangir tries to get more information on practices of exorcism that take place on children here and in other prayer-houses.

At a Christian prayer-house in Luanda, jahangir tries to get more information on practices of exorcism that take place on children here and in other prayer-houses.

Jahangir visits vice-governor Francisca de Spirito do Santos of Luanda province. For diplomatic reasons, a rapporteur has to do many social visits as well during a country-visit.

Jahangir visits vice-governor Francisca de Spirito do Santos of Luanda province. For diplomatic reasons, a rapporteur has to do many social visits as well during a country-visit.

Jahangir, her assistant and a local UN employee during a short lunch break in a sandwichbar.

Jahangir, her assistant and a local UN employee during a short lunch break in a sandwichbar.

Jahangir in the lobby of the 4-star hotel where she stays during the country-visit to Angola. For security reasons she is not allowed to leave the hotel unless accompanied by UN employees and a bodyguard, and then preferably only in a blinded UN car.

Jahangir in the lobby of the 4-star hotel where she stays during the country-visit to Angola. For security reasons she is not allowed to leave the hotel unless accompanied by UN employees and a bodyguard, and then preferably only in a blinded UN car.

Jahangir during a work-visit to the Vatican. In the ante-chamber of a cardinal waiting for the moment he will have time to meet Jahangir and her assistant. Because of her mandate Jahangir regularly meets with spokesmen of all major religions.

Jahangir during a work-visit to the Vatican. In the ante-chamber of a cardinal waiting for the moment he will have time to meet Jahangir and her assistant. Because of her mandate Jahangir regularly meets with spokesmen of all major religions.

In the tram of Geneva, Jahangir has a meeting with a spokesman of a French Lawyer-organization who came up to her in the halls of the UN building. Meanwhile, her assistant makes appointments by phone.

In the tram of Geneva, Jahangir has a meeting with a spokesman of a French Lawyer-organization who came up to her in the halls of the UN building. Meanwhile, her assistant makes appointments by phone.

In the 'Palais des Nations' in Geneva, delegates look for their country-plates that they are to put on their tables in the meeting room. The Human Rights Council meets several times a year for sessions that take one or two weeks.

In the 'Palais des Nations' in Geneva, delegates look for their country-plates that they are to put on their tables in the meeting room. The Human Rights Council meets several times a year for sessions that take one or two weeks.

During a short break between sessions of the Human Rights Council, delegates discuss votings and plan strategies for the coming session. During sessions of the Human Rights Council, delegates of all UN countries, NGO's like Human Rights Watch and lobbying groups are present.

During a short break between sessions of the Human Rights Council, delegates discuss votings and plan strategies for the coming session. During sessions of the Human Rights Council, delegates of all UN countries, NGO's like Human Rights Watch and lobbying groups are present.

The Cuban ambassador to the UN in Geneva Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios (centre), watches up at the result of the voting for a resolution against the American prisoner-camp at Guantanamo that his delegation has put forward. The resolution was rejected, with many non-voters. The political consequences of a for- or against-vote are large. The voting of countries during the Human Rights Council is mainly governed by the political and economical alliances countries have engaged in. The majority of Human Rights violations remain unpenalized and many are not even mentioned.

The Cuban ambassador to the UN in Geneva Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios (centre), watches up at the result of the voting for a resolution against the American prisoner-camp at Guantanamo that his delegation has put forward. The resolution was rejected, with many non-voters. The political consequences of a for- or against-vote are large. The voting of countries during the Human Rights Council is mainly governed by the political and economical alliances countries have engaged in. The majority of Human Rights violations remain unpenalized and many are not even mentioned.

Delegations keep eachother updated on voting and plans during a session of the Human Rights Council. The voting in the meeting hall of the Human Rights Council is for the largest part pre-negotiated between blocks of countries. The EU-countries practically vote as one, but also countries in the developing world and islamic nations have created large and powerful alliances. Because of these alliances where members protect eachother, many resolutions that create juridical, political or economic consequences for Human Rights abuses, are voted away.

Delegations keep eachother updated on voting and plans during a session of the Human Rights Council. The voting in the meeting hall of the Human Rights Council is for the largest part pre-negotiated between blocks of countries. The EU-countries practically vote as one, but also countries in the developing world and islamic nations have created large and powerful alliances. Because of these alliances where members protect eachother, many resolutions that create juridical, political or economic consequences for Human Rights abuses, are voted away.

A reception at the 'Palais des Nations' in Geneva for the launch of a book by special rapporteur Manfred Nowak (middle). Nowak's mandate is Torture. The 'Palais des Nations' is a building with meeting halls on UN-grounds bordering the lake of Geneva. In the background the French Alps.

A reception at the 'Palais des Nations' in Geneva for the launch of a book by special rapporteur Manfred Nowak (middle). Nowak's mandate is Torture. The 'Palais des Nations' is a building with meeting halls on UN-grounds bordering the lake of Geneva. In the background the French Alps.

Delegations of a number of countries work on the creation of a resolution. Before a resolution is put up for voting, it will be written in a number of rounds. Down to the finest details the words will be balanced with the goal to get as many countries on board for the voting. Here, invited by the Cuban delegation, delegates work on a draft for a resolution against the American detention centre in Guantanamo Bay.

Delegations of a number of countries work on the creation of a resolution. Before a resolution is put up for voting, it will be written in a number of rounds. Down to the finest details the words will be balanced with the goal to get as many countries on board for the voting. Here, invited by the Cuban delegation, delegates work on a draft for a resolution against the American detention centre in Guantanamo Bay.

Former special rapporteur for 'Torture' Theo van Boven shakes hands after a panel-discussion about the work of rapporteurs, during a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Within the Human-Rights world, special rapporteurs have a stardom-status. They do their work with help of, but independent from the UN and bring violations to light that can be an embarrassment to the politicized discourse as it is conducted in the meeting halls of the Human Rights Council. Powerful countries can orchestrate long and hard campaigns to have 'unfiendly' rapporteurs replaced.

Former special rapporteur for 'Torture' Theo van Boven shakes hands after a panel-discussion about the work of rapporteurs, during a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Within the Human-Rights world, special rapporteurs have a stardom-status. They do their work with help of, but independent from the UN and bring violations to light that can be an embarrassment to the politicized discourse as it is conducted in the meeting halls of the Human Rights Council. Powerful countries can orchestrate long and hard campaigns to have 'unfiendly' rapporteurs replaced.

Inbetween sessions of the Human Rights Council, delegates lobbyists and members of NGO's take a break in the 'snake-bar' of the 'Palais des nations'.

Inbetween sessions of the Human Rights Council, delegates lobbyists and members of NGO's take a break in the 'snake-bar' of the 'Palais des nations'.