The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for a start on Monday (June 21) in the face of “Wider and more severe setbacks” human rights she has ever seen, in a speech before the highest UN body in this area.
“To recover from the biggest and most severe human rights setbacks we have ever seen, we must have a life-changing vision and concerted action.” to implement it, launched Mme Bachelet with regard to the members of the Human Rights Council.
On the occasion of its 47e session (until July 13), the Human Rights Council will address multiple crises, including Burma, Belarus and Nicaragua. Other highlights: the publication of Mme Bachelet on systemic racism and police violence against people of African descent, and draft resolutions on the Ethiopian region of Tigray and the Rohingyas in Burma.
This session is once again being held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, raising discontent among NGOs and countries, while technical issues hamper the flow of debates, with delegates failing to connect while others are inaudible.
“Deeply disturbed” by the abuses in Tigray
On the occasion of his traditional overview, Mme Bachelet said to himself “Deeply disturbed” by the « graves violations » of human rights in Tigray, against a backdrop of famine. As national elections took place in Ethiopia on Monday, Mr.me Bachelet denounced the abuses committed against civilians “By all parties to the conflict”, against which the central power launched a military offensive in November.
Mme Bachelet listed extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children as well as adults, and forced displacement. “Credible reports indicate that Eritrean soldiers still operate in Tigray and continue to perpetrate human rights and humanitarian law violations”, she added.
She also reported, in many other parts of Ethiopia,“Alarming incidents of ethnic and inter-community violence” and displacement of populations: “The current deployment of military forces is not a lasting solution”.
Xinjiang, Hongkong and Russia
The high commissioner also said she hoped to obtain this year a “Meaningful access” in Xinjiang, hence “Information on serious human rights violations continues to come out”. Several human rights organizations have accused Beijing of having interned at least a million Muslims in this Chinese region in “Re-education camps”. China denies this figure and talks about “Vocational training centers” to support employment and combat religious extremism. In Geneva, Mme Bachelet has called several times in Beijing for a “Full access” in Xinjiang. And at the end of February, she reiterated her call for a “Full and independent assessment” of the human rights situation in this region. But human rights defenders are calling on the UN to toughen up.
Still concerning China, Mme Bachelet also pointed out that a year has passed since the adoption of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, on which his services expressed “Serious concerns”.
In Geneva, Liu Yuyin, spokesperson for the Chinese mission, denounced in an email sent to the media the “Wrong words” of Mme Bachelet on Hong Kong and Xinjiang, “What constitutes interference in the internal affairs of China”. “We invite the high commissioner to visit China, including Xinjiang. We have expressed our position very clearly on several occasions: this visit must be friendly and aim to promote exchanges and cooperation, rather than being a “investigation” based on the principle of the presumption of guilt “, she added.
Mme Bachelet also called on Russia to “Enforce civil and political rights” in view of the legislative elections in September. Citing the case of the imprisoned Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, she said “Appalled by recent measures which further undermine people’s right to express critical opinions, and their ability to take part in elections in September”. After a closed-door trial, a Moscow court ruled a few days ago as “Extremists” the three organizations of Mr. Navalny, including his important regional network, resulting in their ban.
“Legislation restricting the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association must be brought into line with international human rights norms and standards”, underlined Mme Bachelet, urging Moscow to end the arbitrary practice of labeling individuals, journalists and NGOs as“Extremists”, d’“Foreign agents” or“Unwanted organizations”.