UN rights body rejects Western bid to debate Xinjiang abuses
In a close diplomatic victory for China, the U.N.’s top human rights body has voted down a proposal from Britain, Turkey, the United States and other mostly Western countries to hold a debate on alleged rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region.
China envoy vows 'fight' over alleged Xinjiang rights abuses
An envoy from China’s Xinjiang province says Chinese authorities are ready for a “fight” with “anti-China” critics in the West and elsewhere over allegations of rights abuses in the anti-extremism campaign against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups in the region.
UN approves Austria's Volker Türk as new human rights chief
The U.N. General Assembly has approved veteran Austrian diplomat Volker Türk to be the global body’s human rights chief and the world’s advocate for adherence to the universal rights at a time when the office is facing harsh criticism from China for accusing Beijing of abuses against Muslim minorities.
For exiled Uyghurs, UN report is long-awaited vindication
The U.N.’s long-delayed report on mass detentions and other rights abuses against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in China's far-western Xinjiang region has been welcomed by survivors as an acknowledgement of abuses they say they faced at the hands of the Chinese state.
Key players urge accountability for atrocities in Ukraine
For the first time, key players seeking accountability for atrocities during the Ukraine war have come together at an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council to spur investigations into abuses that many Western countries blame on Russia.
EXPLAINER: Why Ethiopia's deadly Tigray crisis is growing
AdEthiopia continues to deny the Eritreans’ presence, even as senior officials with the interim Tigray government that Ethiopia appointed are increasingly outspoken about them. The Telegraph, citing witnesses, has reported one in Debre Abay. CNN, citing witnesses, has reported one in Dengelat. Even as it announced the limited media access, Ethiopia warned journalists to essentially behave themselves. An access map published this week by the U.N. humanitarian agency showed much of Tigray inaccessible beyond major roads and cities.
UN registers steep rise in murders of Colombian activists
According to the U.N. report, at least 133 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2020, a 23% increase from 2019. The United Nations also registered 76 massacres across the country last year, which are defined as events in which three or more civilians are executed at once. AdThe report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. The United Nations urged Colombia’s government to increase its presence in these areas to protect civilians and bring down violence. Critics of his government have said that it has been slow at implementing some aspects of the peace deal, including the coca substitution projects.
Death threat against 11-year-old activist outrages Colombia
Francisco Vera, 11, who is well-known in Colombia for his environmental campaigns and defense of children's rights, gives an interview in Villeta, Colombia, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. The 11-year old activist who received a death threat over Twitter, says that he will continue to lead campaigns and urged other young people to use social media to support causes they believe in. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)VILLETA – A social media death threat aimed at an 11-year-old environmental activist has roused outrage in Colombia, a nation where attacks on social leaders are common and threats are taken seriously. Colombian officials said they are investigating the death threat against Francisco Vera and President Ivan Duque recently promised in a television appearance that his government would find “the bandits” behind the Twitter message. She said a town official suggested shutting down her son’s social media account, but she prefers to let him decide whether to stop campaigning.
Colombia struggles to keep social leaders safe
Santana, who runs an organization that helps community leaders fleeing violence to settle in Bogota, is one of the thousands of activists assigned some sort of government protection. The Afro-Colombian community leader sometimes she uses a hat or a turban for disguise. Last year 120 community leaders were murdered in Colombia according to the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, up from 107 a year earlier. Now 46, he's spent half of his life promoting human rights and fighting against illegal mining and corruption in his province. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently urged the government to increase protection for activists in rural areas.
'I would never go back': Horrors grow in Ethiopia's conflict
In this fragile refugee community on the edge of Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, those who have fled nearly two months of deadly fighting continue to bring new accounts of horror. “So if I go to Tigray, they would pick up that I’m Amhara because Amhara is not a part of them. For Tewodros, the conflict has been one civilian casualty after another since shelling began in early November as he worked at a hospital in Humera. Ethiopia's prime minister often speaks of “medemer,” or national unity, Tewodros said, in a country with more than 80 ethnic groups. In this conflict that remains so much in the shadows, he now relies on strangers to know their fate.
Shadowy Ethiopian massacre could be 'tip of the iceberg'
Others say it was Tigrayan forces and their allies who were responsible. In Sudan, where nearly 50,000 people have fled, one ethnic Amhara refugee gave The Associated Press a similar account. “Anyone they found, they would kill,” Tesfaalem Germay, an ethnic Tigrayan who fled to Sudan with his family, said of Ethiopian and Amhara forces. But another refugee, Abebete Refe, told the AP that many ethnic Amhara like him who stayed behind were massacred by Tigrayan forces. In Mai-Kadra, witnesses told the visiting Ethiopian rights commission they saw police, militia and members of a Tigray youth group attack Amhara.
Over 300 detained in Belarus during protests against leader
Protests in Belarus have continued for almost four months after President Alexander Lukashenko won his sixth term in office in an election the opposition says was rigged. Police in Minsk said they detained more than 300 people. The Viasna human rights group released the names of 215 people detained in Minsk and other cities, where rallies also took place. At least four journalists have been detained in Minsk and the western city of Grodno, according the Belarusian Association of Journalists. On Friday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that the situation with human rights in Belarus is getting worse.
UN rights chief laments worsening situation in Belarus
Riot police block Belarusian pensioners wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (AP Photo)GENEVA – The United Nations' human rights chief lamented a deteriorating situation in Belarus and said Friday that reported beatings of protesters by security forces may in some cases amount to torture. Police have cracked down hard on the largely peaceful demonstrations, using stun grenades, tear gas and truncheons to disperse protesters. Thousands of people have been detained and many of them badly beaten since the protests began, human rights advocates say. Opposition leaders in Belarus have sought discussions with the government about a transfer of power or a new election, which Lukashenko has rejected.
With Ethiopia on brink of escalation, diplomacy in doubt
Tigray women who fled a conflict in the Ethiopia's Tigray region, wait to receive aid at Village 8, the transit centre near the Lugdi border crossing, eastern Sudan, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Meanwhile, hundreds if not thousands of people have been killed, some 40,000 people have fled into Sudan and the U.N. says 2 million people in the sealed-off Tigray region urgently need help. I mean, our goal is a quick end to the conflict," Nagy told reporters late last week. In a rare intervention on an African issue, Trump told the State Department to suspend millions of dollars of aid to Ethiopia and asserted that Egypt would “blow up” the dam. But where Ethiopia will be by the time Biden takes office two months from now is unknown.
As Ethiopia's conflict rages, ethnic targeting turns deadly
Ethnic Tigrayans arrested, in hiding or cut off from the world. Ethiopia’s deadly conflict is spilling beyond its northern Tigray region and turning identity into a mortal threat. Ethnic Tigrayans report being questioned and threatened. “I’m really afraid this might lead to ethnic attacks on Tigrayans,” said Mekonnen, who leads an association of ethnic Tigrayans. With such concerns rising, the international community has begun to highlight the threat of ethnic targeting in its warnings about Ethiopia’s conflict and its pleas for peace.
UN urges India government to better protect rights defenders
GENEVA – The U.N. human rights chief on Tuesday urged India’s government to do more to protect human rights defenders, who have come under mounting pressure in recent months in the world’s largest democracy. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet's office pointed to three “problematic” laws in India that have variously tightened restrictions on non-governmental organizations and led to a crackdown on dissent. Critics say India under Modi has grown increasingly intolerant, with a crackdown on dissent unprecedented in scale. Leaders of Modi’s party have routinely labeled critics as “anti-nationals,” and the authorities have dealt with many rights advocates and activists with an iron fist. Rights groups have condemned the arrests as “illegal” and a “grave abuse of state power.”
COVID-19 can't crush human rights, UN gathering declares
(Manuel Elias/UN Photo via AP)JOHANNESBURG – In a diminished spotlight because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading human rights defenders on Friday urged people in these fractured times to connect through politics — and vote, too. People must push back even in this socially distanced world, speakers said. U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned of a “crisis of governance” and a marginalization of voices that she said will only deepen grievances and harm all of society. “We are witnessing an erosion of public trust in institutions and traditional politics,” said Eamon Gilmore, the European Union’s special representative for human rights. As the global toll closed in on 1 million deaths, the U.K.’s minister for human rights, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, reminded listeners: “It’s only over when it’s over for all of us.”
In UN speech, Duterte defends drug war but tempers tone
At the same time, Duterte spotlighted Filipino health care workers' contribution to the virus fight at home and around the globe. Duterte, who took office in 2016, often lashes out at what he decries as international meddling in Philippine domestic affairs. Western governments and human rights groups see it as expressing justifiable alarm about an anti-drug crusade that has left more than 5,700 mostly poor suspects dead. Duterte has denied authorizing extrajudicial killings but has repeatedly and openly threatened drug dealers with death. “We firmly reject attempts to undermine” a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated most of China’s claims, Duterte said.
Belarus borders remain open despite leader's closure threat
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he addresses a women's forum in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said late Thursday that he was putting the army on high alert and closing the country’s borders with Lithuania and Poland. But the national Border Guard Service said all border checkpoints remained open, though it said controls and inspections have been strengthened. A spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard, Agnieszka Golias, said traffic at Poland's border with Belarus was as busy as usual. This week, Russia has sent 300 paratroopers for joint military drills with Belarusian soldiers near Brest on the border with Poland.
Belarus, backers seek to block speeches at UN rights body
(BelTA Pool Photo via AP)GENEVA – A representative of Belarus, backed by Russia, China and Venezuela, tried and failed to limit speeches as the U.N.'s top human rights body held an urgent debate Friday on alleged rights violations by Belarusian authorities under President Alexander Lukashenko. Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, the Austrian ambassador in Geneva, allowed speakers who included Lukashenko's main election challenger to continue decrying a string of alleged rights violations in Belarus. “The council’s consideration of the recent events in Belarus is timely,” U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in remarks delivered by her deputy. Council president Tichy-Fisslberger brushed off the appeal, and the former presidential candidate finished her statement. ___This reference corrects the spelling of the UN human rights chief’s surname on second reference.
UN rights chief decries racism in US, keeps eye on Hong Kong
The comments from Michelle Bachelet came in a catch-all speech to open the latest session of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council on Monday. She also raised concerns about the human rights situation in Myanmar, Nicaragua and Venezuela, among other places on her agenda. Many see the law as Beijing’s boldest move yet to remove a legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong and the mainland’s Communist Party system. “The Hong Kong authorities have consistently stated that the law is not intended to impact negatively on the peaceful exercise of human rights by Hong Kong residents,” said Bachelet. She said her office had documented 47 killings of human rights defenders in Colombia this year.
UN experts raise concerns over Hong Kong security law
Seven human rights experts affiliated with the U.N. raised concerns over Hong Kong's national security law in a letter addressed to Chinese authorities, saying that the law infringed on certain fundamental rights. The security law makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the citys internal affairs. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has insisted that it will help bring stability back to Hong Kong after months of unrest. The security law extends beyond Hong Kong, targeting anyone overseas who violates it, although it is not clear how it would be enforced. The letter follows the first in-depth appraisal of the Hong Kong security law from the U.N. human rights system, though officials including U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet have previously expressed concerns about it.
UN office denounces human rights violations in Philippines
A heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs has resulted in serious human rights violations in the Philippines, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent, a summary of the report said. It said many of the human rights concerns have become more acute in recent years.The report, requested by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council, is based on nearly 900 submissions as well as government input, court and police records, and interviews with victims and witnesses. Unfortunately, the report has documented deep-seated impunity for serious human rights violations, and victims have been deprived of justice for the killings of their loved ones, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. People who use or sell drugs do not lose their human rights, she said. The poll also stated that 73% said the number of illegal drug users had fallen since Duterte took office in mid-2016.
The Latest: Pakistan, India coronavirus cases, deaths spike
(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)ISLAMABAD Pakistan reported a record single-day spike in coronavirus-related deaths with 82 new fatalities and 4,688 cases that it says resulted from increased testing in the past 24 hours. ___HERES WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: The pandemic has stranded merchant ship crews at sea for months There are no secrets in India's largest slum. The country registered 9,304 new cases in yet another record single-day spike in infections, raising its totals to 216,919 cases with 6,075 deaths, the Health Ministry reported Thursday. The coastal state of Maharashtra continues to be the worst affected, with 74,860 cases and 2,587 deaths. ___MEXICO CITY -- The coronavirus toll in Mexico has soared to a new daily high, with the health department reporting 1,092 deaths.