UN rights chief presents annual report to Human Rights Council
photo credit: UN

UN rights chief presents annual report to Human Rights Council

UN High Commissioner for Human rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday reported on human rights issues surrounding women, conflicts and inequalities at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“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,” said Bachelet. In her speech, Bachelet called on Saudi Arabia to release women activists allegedly tortured in detention after authorities accused them of harming the country’s interests.

She also rebuked the Israeli government for its “immediate dismissal” of a report on possible war crimes it committed during protests in Gaza, “without addressing any of the very serious issues raised.” She called for both countries to exercise restraint before the first anniversary of the Gaza protests on March 30, and recommended Israel be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Bachelet also called on China to allow UN investigators to visit its Xinjiang region to verify reports about abuses against Uighur Muslims. Despite many Uighurs and Xinjiang experts’ interpretation about the “violent episodes,” Bachelet believes that “stability and security in this region can be facilitated by policies which demonstrate the authorities’ respect of all people’s rights.”

“Inequalities stir grievances and unrest; fuel hatred, violence, and threats to peace; and force people to leave their homes and countries. Inequalities undermine social progress, and economic and political stability. But human rights build hope. They bind humanity together with shared principles and a better future, in sharp contrast to the divisive, destructive forces of repression, exploitation, scapegoating, discrimination–and inequalities,” said Bachelet at the end of her report.