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New UN Rights Chief Voices Concern About Abuses Worldwide


New High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks on the opening day of the 39th UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva on September 10.

The new UN human rights chief has warned about abuses worldwide, voicing concern about developments in China, the United States, and other countries in her first speech to the UN Human Rights Council.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, a former Chilean president who was once a political detainee herself, spoke as the council opened a three-week session in Geneva on September 10.

Bachelet urged China to let monitors into the country following "deeply disturbing" allegations of large reeducation camps in which Uyghurs and other minorities are held in the western province of Xinjiang.

In a September 10 report echoing findings released by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination a month ago, Human Rights Watch presented evidence of what it said was the "arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life" by the authorities Xinjiang.

Bachelet, who said there have also been reports of "patterns of human rights violations in other regions," called on the Chinese government to permit access for her office across the country.

Bachelet also said she was alarmed by antimigrant violence in Germany and was sending teams to Austria and Italy to look into the protection of migrants in those countries.

She said that Italy had denied entry to ships seeing to rescue migrants on the Mediterranean, and voiced concern over reports of a sharp increase in violence and racism against migrants, Africans, and Roma.

Turning to the United States, Bachelet called the separation of migrant families by the authorities "unconscionable" and expressed concern that 500 migrant children who were taken away from their parents had not yet been returned to them.

She criticized the announcement by President Donald Trump's administration last week that it would withdraw from a court agreement limiting detention of migrant children to 20 days.

Bachelet also expressed concern about "ongoing military operations" in the rebel-held Idlib Province in Syria, lamenting the "interminable and terrible" suffering of Syrian people and appealing for justice for victims of human rights violations during the 7-1/2-year civil war there.

Idlib residents and rescue workers said that Russian and Syrian government aircraft resumed intensive strikes in the northwestern province on September 9, a day after Russia and Iran rejected Turkey's call for a cease-fire to be announced at a summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rohani, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Bachelet called on the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen to hold perpetrators of air strikes on civilians to account. An air strike in August hit a bus, killing dozens of children.

"The recent Saudi royal order which appears to provide a blanket pardon to members of the Saudi armed forces for actions taken in Yemen is very concerning," she said.

Bachelet was appointed in August to succeed Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian diplomat who served as the UN rights chief for four years.

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