The United Nations human rights chief on Wednesday said he was disturbed by the discrimination and violence directed at Dalits, people from other scheduled castes, and religious minorities such as Muslims in India.
In an annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said, “In some cases, this injustice appears actively endorsed by local or religious officials.”
“I am concerned that criticism of government policies is frequently met by claims that it constitutes sedition or a threat to national security,” the human rights chief added. “I am deeply concerned by efforts to limit critical voices through the cancellation or suspension of registration of thousands of NGOs, including groups advocating for human rights and even public health groups.”
Al-Hussein also criticised Syria for its continued offensive in Ghouta. Syrian Army attacks on rebel groups have left at least 520 dead in the Ghouta enclave over the past two weeks, and 2,500 injured. As many as 4,00,000 civilians are feared trapped. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a daily five-hour ceasefire in the region, but the fighting has continued.
“Recent attempts to justify indiscriminate, brutal attacks on hundreds of thousands of civilians by the need to combat a few hundred fighters – as in Eastern Ghouta – are legally, and morally, unsustainable. Also, when you are prepared to kill your own people, lying is easy too,” al-Hussein said. “Claims by the government of Syria that it is taking every measure to protect its civilian population are frankly ridiculous.”
Describing Eastern Ghouta as “hell on earth”, al-Hussein said it is “urgent to reverse this catastrophic course, and to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court”.
The situation of the Rohingya community in Myanmar and the refugees in Bangladesh is on “intense concern”, al-Hussein said. “My office believes that ethnic cleansing is still underway in Rakhine State.”
People continue to flee to Bangladesh because of systematic persecution and violence in other towns and villages, he said. “Victims have reported killings, rape, torture and abductions by the security forces and local militia, as well as apparently deliberate attempts to force the Rohingya to leave the area through starvation, with officials blocking their access to crops and food supplies.”
The human rights chief added: “The Government must take steps towards real accountability for these violations, and must fully respect the rights of the Rohingya, including to citizenship.” Any repatriation agreement should lay out a clear pathway to citizenship and put an end to the discrimination and violence inflicted on the Rohingya, he said.
Myanmar treats Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and does not acknowledge their rights as an official ethnic group. The community has been subjected to massive violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar.