UN rights chief airs worries on climate change, migrant kids
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, attends the opening of 42nd session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday.
AP, Geneva :
The U.N. human rights chief said Monday she was "alarmed" that migrant children are still being held in centers in the United States and Mexico and warned that climate change has become an unprecedented threat to human rights worldwide.
In her introductory address for the start of the Human Rights Council's latest session, Michelle Bachelet aired concerns from unlawful killings and injuries of Palestinians by Israeli security forces to India's actions against Kashmiris,
But the rights chief, who is a former president of Chile, put her main focus on environmental concerns - calling variously for greater participation in the fight against climate change by businesses and greater space for environmental activists to express their views. "We are burning up our future - literally," Bachelet said. "The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope. This is not a situation where any country, any institution, any policymaker can stand on the sidelines."
Alluding to a Swedish teenage climate campaigner, the human rights chief decried "verbal attacks on young activists such as Greta Thunberg and others."
Looking past personal criticism against her from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in recent days, Bachelet also reiterated her concerns about the "drastic acceleration of deforestation of the Amazon."
"The fires currently raging across the rainforest may have catastrophic impact on humanity as a whole," Bachelet said, "but their worst effects are suffered by the women, men and children who live in these areas, among them, many indigenous peoples."
She urged authorities in Brazil, as well as Paraguay and Bolivia, to ensure "longstanding environmental policies" are carried out, "thus preventing future tragedies."
Last week, Bolsonaro praised the 1973 military coup by Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile that led to Bachelet's father's death a year later in captivity. Asked by The Associated Press to respond to those comments, she declined to comment.
As for migrants' rights in Central America and on the U.S.-border, Bachelet said she was concerned that policies by the United States, Mexico and others in the region "are putting migrants at heightened risk of human rights violations and abuses."
"Notably, I am alarmed that migrant children continue to be detained in centers in both the U.S. and Mexico, contravening the best interests of the child, which is a fundamental tenet of international law," she said, She said at least 35,000 asylum-seekers have been "pushed back" to Mexican border areas to wait for their hearings this year.