GENEVA - U.N. human rights chief Michele Bachelet has issued a stark warning that rising poverty, inequality, injustice and the erosion of democratic values were gravely setting back the cause of human rights around the world. Bachelet addressed delegates at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s three-week session.
In her opening remarks, Bachelet called for action to stop what she called the most wide-reaching and severe cascade of human rights setbacks in our lifetime.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights backed up her assertion by zipping through the human rights records of dozens of countries around the world.
No region escaped her withering gaze. She noted the Council would hold special interactive dialogues on several places of specific concern, including Iran, Myanmar, Venezuela and the occupied Palestinian territories.
She expressed alarm at the sharp increase in violence and civilian harm in Afghanistan and warned the imminent withdrawal of international forces was creating fear for the future. She deplored the deterioration of freedoms of expression in Belarus and said reports of continued arbitrary arrests and torture of human rights activists was of great concern.
“In the Tigray region of Ethiopia, I am deeply disturbed by continued reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations and abuses against civilians by all parties to the conflict, including extrajudicial executions; arbitrary arrests and detentions; sexual violence against children as well as adults; and forced displacement,” said Bachelet.
In many other parts of Ethiopia, Bachelet warned alarming incidents of deadly ethnic and inter-communal violence and displacement were increasing polarization to a more dangerous level. She urged dialogue throughout the country to address these grievances.
Even powerful, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council did not escape condemnation. The high commissioner criticized the application of China’s National Security Law in Hong Kong. She noted this was having a chilling impact on the territory’s civic and democratic space.
She reiterated her request for access to China’s Xinjiang region where an estimated one million Uyghur Muslims allegedly are being held in abusive internment camps.
“In the Russian Federation, I am dismayed by recent measures that further undermine people's right to express critical views, and their ability to take part in the parliamentary elections scheduled in September. Earlier this month, following closed hearings, a court in Moscow ruled that the Anti-Corruption Foundation led by the imprisoned opposition figure Aleksei Navalny was an "extremist organization.” she said.
She urged Russia to uphold civil and political rights and to refrain from branding ordinary individuals, journalists, and non-governmental organizations as extremist or foreign agents.
Bachelet called for concerted action to recover from these grave human rights setbacks. She said societies must restore systems of justice, reduce inequalities and lift people out of poverty through human rights-based development to create better, more resilient societies for future generations.