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UN human rights chief calls for ‘urgent reversal’ of civilian rule in coup-hit African countries

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief on Monday called for an “urgent reversal” of military takeovers and a return to civilian rule in countries in Africa where coups in recent years have ousted elected leaders as he tackles a host of crises attacked all over the world. globe.

Volker Türk’s comments set the tone for the UN’s top human rights body as he opened its autumn session against the backdrop of conflict and crises – including the plight of migrants from Myanmar to Mali and Mexico.

Speaking about the decade-old crisis in the Sahel region that spans North Africa, in countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, he pointed to the impact of climate change and a lack of investment in services such as education and healthcare as factors who have fueled extremism.

“The unconstitutional changes in government that we have seen in the Sahel are not the solution,” Türk said. “Instead, we urgently need a shift towards civilian governance and open spaces where people can participate, influence a business and criticize government actions or lack of action.”

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In his sweeping speech to the Human Rights Council, Türk laid out a litany of concerns, from “extreme gang violence” in Haiti and “nonchalance” over the deaths of 2,300 migrants in the Mediterranean this year, to the 1.2 billion people – half of them children – who now live in acute poverty all over the world.

He criticized incidents of recent public burnings of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, as “the latest manifestation of this drive to polarize and fragment – ​​to create divisions both within societies and between countries.”

He raised the possibility of an “international fact-finding mission” to investigate human rights violations linked to the deadly 2020 explosion in Beirut and supported creating the crime of “ecocide” under international law to increase responsibility for environmental damage.

Türk, among other things, encouraged countries to allow women to safely end their pregnancies and warned that accelerated deportations and expulsions of migrants and people seeking protection along the US-Mexico border posed “serious problems.”

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He warned that Russian authorities continue to use the legal system to silence critics. He said the additional prison terms of 19 years for opposition leader Alexei Navalny and 25 years for Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza “raise serious concerns both for these individuals and for the government.” of the law.”

He also urged “strong corrective action” from China over reported abuses against Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim ethnic groups in the western region in Xinjiang, and denounced the detentions of rights activists in the country.

Türk also expressed concern about a bill in Iran that would impose harsh penalties for violations of the country’s strictly enforced law on the mandatory headscarf, or hijab, for women.

His comments came just days before the first anniversary of the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by Iran’s moral police allegedly for violating the dress code, and the nationwide protests sparked by her dead.

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