World in worst cascade of human rights setbacks: UN

22 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

GENEVA: The UN rights chief called Monday for “concerted action” to help recover from the worst global deterioration of rights seen in decades, highlighting situations in China, Russia and Ethiopia among others, reports AFP.

“To recover from the most wide-reaching and severe cascade of human rights setbacks in our lifetimes, we need a life-changing vision, and concerted action,” Michelle Bachelet told the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47th session.

“Extreme poverty, inequalities and injustice are rising. Democratic and civic space is being eroded,” she warned.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced deep concern about a number of country situations.

She said she was “deeply disturbed” by reports of “serious violations” in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, wracked by war and with some 350,000 people threatened by famine.

She pointed to “extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children as well as adults, and forced displacement”, and said she had “credible reports” that Eritrean soldiers were still operating in the region.

Other parts of Ethiopia, which was holding elections Monday, were also seeing “alarming incidents of deadly ethnic and inter-communal violence and displacement are linked to increasing polarisation about longstanding grievances,” Bachelet said.

“The ongoing deployment of military forces is not a durable solution,” she said, calling for national dialogue.

The UN rights chief also pointed to the “chilling impact” of a sweeping national security law introduced in Hong Kong.

The law, which took effect on July 1, 2020, is seen as the speartip of a sweeping crackdown on Beijing’s critics in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong following 2019’s huge democracy protests.

It has criminalised much dissent, given China jurisdiction over some cases and awarded authorities a suite of powerful new investigation powers. Bachelet warned that “107 people have been arrested under the National Security Law and 57 have been formally charged”.

The first trial under the new law is due later this week, in what she said would “be an important test of independence for Hong Kong’s judiciary.”

She also said she hoped to finally be able to visit the Chinese region of Xinjiang this year.