By Ali Murat Alhas
ANKARA (AA) - The UN's top human rights official on Monday expressed concern at the aggression of the Syrian regime and its allies, targeting public facilities in the northwestern city of Idlib.
Inaugurating the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the top official commented on diverse issues ranging from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, crackdown in Sudan, persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and also on the conditions of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told UNHRC members that 200,000 people have been displaced due to ongoing clashes in Idlib.
"The recent and continuing military escalations in Syria -- in Idlib and western Aleppo city -- are of extreme concern. The Office [UNHRC] has received reports of hundreds of ongoing civilian casualties and destruction to civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools," she said.
Bachelet, a politician who served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010, said the Syrian regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity in early 2011 and had triggered a civil war, leading to the death of hundreds of thousands.
Turkey and Russia last September agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone. But the regime has consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire and launched fresh attacks inside the territory.
- Khashoggi murder and Saudi Arabia
Bachelet also regretted Saudi Arabia's dismissal of the recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s report regarding the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post columnist was killed on Oct. 2, 2018, after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
"I also reiterate my strong condemnation of the mass execution of 37 men in April [in Saudi Arabia]. Some were children when the alleged crimes occurred," she stated.
-Crackdown in Sudan
She said Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) has not responded to the UN request to give access in order to investigate allegations of human rights violation.
"The inspiring and peaceful popular uprising in Sudan, with its call for democratic governance and justice, has been met with a brutal crackdown by the security forces this month," she said.
"We have received allegations of rape and sexual abuse of both women and men during the crackdown, as well as information alleging that hundreds of protestors may be missing," she added.
Sudan has remained in turmoil since April 11, when the military establishment announced the removal of President Omar al-Bashir after months of popular protests against his 30-year rule.
- Rohingya Muslims and persecution
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the evidence in Myanmar indicated continuing persecution of the remaining Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State, with little or no effort by the authorities to create conditions for the voluntary, safe and sustainable return of refugees.
She said the military has used heavy weaponry, airstrikes and helicopter gunships in the conflict, resulting loss of life on all sides, severely impacting the lives of civilians.
"We fear that the conflict is being used as a pretext to carry out attacks against Rohingya civilians, and to cause further displacement," she underlined.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed to Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
- Trail of Daesh terrorists, relatives
Bachelet also flagged the issue of foreign terrorists of Daesh and their families detained in Syria and Iraq. She insisted that countries must take responsibility for their nationals caught up in the war.
She said following the collapse of Daesh, more than 55,000 suspected terrorists and their families, from nearly 50 countries stand detained in Syria and Iraq. Out of them, 11,000 family members are being held in Syria's al-Hol camp.
"It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes -- whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime -- should face investigation and prosecution, with due process. Accountability, with fair trials, protects societies from future radicalization and violence,” she said.
"UNICEF estimates there are 29,000 children of foreign fighters in Syria -- 20,000 from Iraq -- most of them under the age of 12," she said.
- Uighur Muslims and China
The UN official also commented on the conditions of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China.
"I continue to raise issues related to Xinjiang and other matters bilaterally with the Government of China, and discussions concerning unfettered access to the province by my Office are ongoing," she added.
The Xinjiang region is home to 13 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
Around 1 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in an expanding network of "political re-education" camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.
Concluding her remarks, she called on others to stand by those countries, who protect the vulnerable and by the governments that serve people and not themselves.