Growing number of countries refusing to cooperate on human rights: UN
Countries are increasingly refusing to cooperate with the UN on human rights, the world body warned on Tuesday, voicing alarm at situations in dozens of states, including Syria, Iran and Venezuela.
“States may shut my office out, but they will not shut us up; neither will they blind us,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, opening the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council. He decried “an emerging pattern” in which a growing number of states were refusing access to his staff and other UN representatives tasked with investigating allegations of rights violations in their countries.
Zeid voiced alarm at the situation in war-ravaged Syria, where no UN human rights monitors have been allowed in since the deadly conflict erupted in March 2011. “This is a state led by a medical doctor and yet is believed to have gassed its own people,” he said, also decrying attacks on hospitals and civilians neighbourhoods, and the detention of tens of thousands of people in “inhuman conditions”.“Words cannot convey how profoundly I condemn this situation,” he said.
Zeid also criticised Venezuela, which for the past two and a half years has refused to even issue a visa to his representative in the region. “Its comprehensive denial of access to my staff is particularly shocking in the light of our acute concerns regarding allegations of repression of opposition voices and civil society groups,” he said.
Among his concerns he listed arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force against peaceful protests, and a dramatic decline in economic and social rights that has sparked widespread hunger. Iran, meanwhile, had blocked all access to his staff since 2013, which he said was “particularly regrettable given the reports we continue to receive of fundamental problems with the administration of criminal justice” in the country.
‘Grant unconditional access to both sides of Kashmir ‘
The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on Tuesday asked India and Pakistan to grant it “unconditional access” to both sides on the Line of Control to establish an “objective assessment” of the situation in Kashmir.
In his opening statement at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, “Two months ago, I requested the agreement of the Governments of India and Pakistan to invite teams from my Office to visit both sides of the Line of Control.”
“We have been receiving reports, claiming the Indian authorities had used force against civilians under its administration. We furthermore received conflicting narratives from the two sides as to the cause for the confrontations and the reported large numbers of people killed and wounded,” he said.