The UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet told the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47th session, “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.”
Bachelet said she was deeply disturbed by reports of “serious violations” in Tigray, racked by war and with about 350,000 people threatened by famine. She pointed to “extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children as well as adults,” and said she had “credible reports” that Eritrean soldiers were still operating in the region. Other parts of Ethiopia, which held elections on Monday, were also seeing “alarming incidents of deadly ethnic and inter-communal violence and displacement”, Bachelet said.
“The ongoing deployment of military forces is not a durable solution,” she said.
Bachelet also decried the situation in northern Mozambique, ravaged by recent deadly jihadist violence, where she said food insecurity was rising and “almost 800,000 people, including 364,000 children” had now been forced to flee their homes.
She also pointed to the “chilling impact” of a sweeping national security law introduced in Hong Kong. The law, which took effect on the eve of 1 July, 2020, is seen as the spear tip 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 powerful new investigative powers. She also pointed to “reports of serious human rights violations” in China’s Xinjiang region, and said she hoped Beijing would grant her a long-discussed visit there, including “meaningful access” this year. At least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been held in camps, according to rights groups.
Bachelet also criticised recent measures by the Kremlin shrinking the space for opposing political views and access to participation in September elections. She highlighted the recent moves to dismantle the movement of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Barring his organisations from working in the country, a Moscow court earlier this month branded them as “extremist” in a ruling Bachelet said was “based on vaguely defined allegations of attempting to change the foundations of constitutional order”. Putin, has signed legislation outlawing staff, members and sponsors of “extremist” groups from running in parliamentary elections.
“I call on Russia to uphold civil and political rights,” Bachelet said.