U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday highlighted LGBTQ rights abuses in Poland and Honduras during her speech at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s latest session in Geneva.
Bachelet expressed concern “about the continuing repression of LGBTI people and activists (in Poland), including restrictions on their freedom of assembly, and the government’s support for towns that have termed themselves — using unacceptable language — ‘LGBTI-free zones.'”
A magazine that supports Polish President Andrzej Duda’s government last summer distributed “LGBT-free zone” stickers.
Duda in June said LGBTQ “ideology” is more harmful than communism. Justyna Nakielska of Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, a Polish LGBTQ advocacy group, told the Washington Blade earlier this year that Duda’s Law and Justice party ahead of last October’s parliamentary elections described LGBTQ Poles as “a threat to the family” and said they “want to sexualize children.”
Duda won re-election in July.
“The scapegoating and targeting of a minority group, for political purposes, feeds intolerance and discrimination, damaging all of society,” said Bachelet.
Bachelet also noted “attacks on and violent deaths of LGBTI persons continue to increase” in Honduras.
She said the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras has “documented” the murders of seven transgender women in the Central American country since President Juan Orlando Hernández’s government declared a state of emergency in March because of the coronavirus. Bachelet noted three of these killings took place in July.
Bachelet in her speech also spoke about the impact the pandemic has had in the Western Hemisphere.
“The severe socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Americas region should alert all actors to the urgency of addressing the region’s profound inequalities in development,” she said. “Coupled with often fragile democratic systems, it may also be a warning of potentially high risks of social unrest.”
Bachelet did not specifically refer to gender-based coronavirus prevention measures — known as “pico y género” rules —in Panamá, Colombia and Perú that trans activists criticized as discriminatory.
“The only way to build a sustainable recovery will be to address the root causes of inequalities, exclusion and discrimination,” she said. “It will also be crucial to strengthen democracy and safeguard human rights in response to increasing levels of violence across the region.”
Bachelet cites George Floyd case
Bachelet is the former president of Chile. The U.N. General Assembly in 2018 approved her nomination to succeed Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, a Jordanian diplomat, as the U.N.’s human rights chief.
The U.S. in 2018 withdrew from the council.
Bachelet in her speech referred to George Floyd, a Black man who died in May after a then-Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Bachelet also noted the cases of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., and Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y.
“In the United States, the shooting of Jacob Blake last month in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by a police officer employing apparently excessive force — and details that have emerged regarding the death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York — bring home yet again the need for urgent and profound action to combat systemic racism and racial discrimination in policing and across society,” she said. “The absence of accountability for many prior killings underscores the gravity of this crisis.”
“Many commitments to reform were made by cities and police following the killing of George Floyd in May — including by law enforcement agencies in Kenosha,” added Bachelet. “Those words need to be matched by real change, to create an environment in which African Americans feel they are protected by law enforcement and the state.”
The council in the wake of Floyd’s death unanimously approved a resolution that condemns police brutality. The resolution also directed Bachelet to “prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent” and to “examine government responses to anti-racism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists.”
Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, spoke to the council via video before it approved the resolution.