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UN's Bachelet: Denying Fair Trials Leads to Radicalization

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is seen at a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 6, 2019.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says all individuals suspected of crimes, even former Islamic State fighters, are entitled to due process guarantees. She warns failure to guarantee such risks further radicalization and violence.

Bachelet reports more than 55,000 suspected Islamic State fighters and their families are detained in Syria and Iraq following the collapse of the militant group. Among them are foreign alleged fighters from nearly 50 countries, including thousands of families and children.

The U.N. Children’s Fund estimates there are 29,000 children of foreign fighters in Syria, most under the age of 12. Bachelet says foreign family members should be repatriated, unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards.

“Children, in particular, have suffered grievous violations of their rights - including those who may have been indoctrinated or recruited by ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as Islamic State) not to perpetrate violent acts. The primary consideration must be their rehabilitation, protection and best interests,” said Bachelet, speaking Monday at the opening of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Over the coming three weeks, the U.N. Human Rights Council will examine more than 100 reports. They include the records of individual countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Sudan and Venezuela. Global phenomena, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, as well as topics crucial to women’s enjoyment of human rights at work, old age and climate change will be discussed.

In her speech, Bachelet highlighted a number of these issues. For example, she voiced her outrage at the brutal crackdown by Sudanese security forces this month against peaceful protesters. More than 100 people reportedly were killed, and scores injured earlier this month.

“I regret that the [Sudanese] government has not responded to our request for access to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by the joint security forces during the crackdown … We have received allegations of rape and sexual abuse of both women and men during the crackdown, as well as information alleging that hundreds of protesters may be missing,” Bachelet said.

The U.N. human rights chief also denounced the rising tide of hate speech and misinformation leading to attacks on religious minorities. In recent months, she noted, mosques, synagogues and churches have been attacked by gunmen, with large loss of life.

In addition, she deplored the vilification of migrants and the criminalization of people trying to help them. She said more than 100 ordinary people in Europe have been arrested or prosecuted this year for feeding hungry migrants and finding them shelter. She said similar prosecutions of ordinary people trying to help individual migrants in distress also have taken place in the United States and elsewhere.