GENEVA — The U.N.’s top human rights body has opened its first and highest-level meeting of 2021, amid growing concerns on issues including the military coup in Myanmar, the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the rights situations in countries including Ethiopia and Sri Lanka.
The four-week session at the Human Rights Council starting Monday drew several presidents and prime ministers for its “high-level segment.” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro spoke out against “economic aggression” by critics who sanctioned his country over his government’s violent crackdown on dissent.
Some Western powers voiced a laundry list of rights concerns. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab cited a “dire and shocking situation” in Russia and said it was “disgraceful” that Navalny, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, had been sentenced on “arbitrary charges” after being poisoned last year.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spoke out on China, citing “arbitrary detention of ethnic minorities” like Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region and “China’s crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong.”
His Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, echoed his government’s frequent critique of foreign meddling in China’s “internal affairs” and defended Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong — where he claimed public support for a widely criticized security law — and Xinjiang.