Syria tops nations slammed by UN human rights chief

14 September 2016

The UN's highest authority on human rights has hit out at the Syrian government for refusing to let observers monitor the country's civil war.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened the 33rd sitting of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday by naming and shaming countries that he said had refused to open themselves up to international scrutiny.

His greatest criticism was reserved for Bashar Al-Assad's Syrian government, who had said had tried to evade independent scrutiny despite repeatedly filing allegations about other parties in the civil war.

''Syria, despite repeated requests, has granted no access to OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights) or to the Commission of Inquiry since the crisis began in 2011,'' the commissioner said in his opening speech.

''This is a state led by a medical doctor and yet is believed to have gassed its own people; has attacked hospitals and bombed civilian neighbourhoods with indiscriminate explosive weapons; and maintains tens of thousands of detainees in inhuman conditions.

''Words cannot convey how profoundly I condemn this situation. The government, which is responsible for some of the gravest violations on record in the history of this council, has regularly sent notes verbales to my office reporting abuses by armed groups. But it offers no possibility whatsoever for independent scrutiny.''

Other countries singled out by the commissioner included Venezuela, which Al Hussein said had denied visas for UN teams, Turkey, which he said had blocked access to the Kurdish south east, and Israel, which has ''a long record of refusing to cooperate'' with mandates for the UN to access the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Bahrain was criticised for ''harassment and arrests of human rights defenders and political activists'', while the Philippines' new president Rodrigo Duterte was rapped for his new war on drugs that has seen thousands of people summarily shot on sight without any judicial process.

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