Sex slaves, child labour and Iraq are among the themes at the fourth International Film Festival on Human Rights, which starts in Geneva on Friday.

The festival, which opens with the world premiere of a film about Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross movement, once again turns the camera on the myriad domains where human rights are violated.

Over eight days participants will dissect issues such as terrorism and repression, human rights violations in China, the absence of women’s rights and conflict in Africa.

This year the festival pays particular homage to international Geneva, the capital of human rights and humanitarian action.

It opens on Friday with the first film ever made about the work of Henry Dunant, which recounts the founding of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

The actress and activist, Vanessa Redgrave, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey will attend the screening.

Human dignity

In the festival programme, Calmy-Rey underlines the importance of this tribute to Dunant: "Henry Dunant has a message for us today - that of not being afraid when we are called upon to make human dignity a more tangible reality."

Now in its fourth year, the festival continues to strengthen its role as a standard bearer for the victims of human rights abuses and those - the non-governmental organisations - that defend them.

This "platform against indifference", according to its director Léo Kaneman, will address the repercussions of China’s economic growth (in the presence of former Swiss cabinet minister Ruth Dreifuss), the tragedy of Tibet and the war on terror.

Remaining faithful to its concept of "a film, a subject, a debate", in which each screening is accompanied by public debate, the festival will also examine human trafficking, clandestine workers and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Torture

Another theme is the work of human rights defenders around the world. An evening organised by the World Organisation against Torture will focus on recent attempts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to shackle NGOs.

On Tuesday the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues is due to tackle the issue of international justice. This debate will be attended by Switzerland’s Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

And as with any film festival, there is a competition. This year 11 documentaries are challenging for the Vieira de Mello prize, named after the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who was killed in Baghdad in 2003.

Fourteen films will also be competing for the World Organisation against Torture Award, which acknowledges the commitment of filmmakers to the defence of human dignity.

International Film Festival on Human Rights:

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Swiss human rights policy:World

Organisation against Torture: