GENEVA - U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is warning that growing social, economic, and political inequalities are increasing alienation and instability in countries throughout the world. The high commissioner presented a sweeping view of major human rights situations around the world in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Bachelet said inequalities in income, opportunity, justice and the enjoyment of human rights exist in all countries — rich and poor alike. Tackling these inequalities, she says, is critical in overcoming the grievances and unrest that fuel hatred, violence and threats to peace.
She cited many examples of countries where the denial of rights has led to protests and violent crackdowns by security forces. She mentioned Sudan, where people protesting harsh economic conditions and bad governance have been violently dispersed by security forces.
She noted similar scenarios are playing out in many other places, including Zimbabwe, Haiti, France, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Bachelet said she is shocked by the number of killings of human rights defenders around the world. She expressed alarm at the increasingly widespread attacks on journalists and media freedoms.
The human rights chief said she is very concerned about government reprisals against victims, human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations who cooperate with the United Nations.
"Today, allow me to voice my concern at the apparently arbitrary arrest and detention, and alleged ill-treatment or torture, of several women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia," she said. "The persecution of peaceful activists would clearly contradict the spirit of the country's proclaimed new reforms. So, we urge that these women be released."
Bachelet condemned the detention of members of the Uighur Muslim minority in what China calls re-education centers in its Xinjiang province. Activists say about 1 million Uighurs are kept in what they call detention centers.
Bachelet also did not shy away from criticizing the United States' migration policy. Thousands of migrant children have been separated from their families during border crossings into the U.S.
Separately, she called on Australia to implement more humane policies toward hundreds of migrants detained on Manus Island and Nauru.
She said inequalities undermine social progress, and economic and political stability; whereas human rights build hope.
The high commissioner urged nations to do away with the divisive, destructive forces of repression in favor of principled and more effective policies grounded in human rights.