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U.N. human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet speaks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in February 2020. Bachelet on Thursday condemned President Donald Trump's migration and environmental policies, saying they threaten public health. (Photo: UN Geneva/Flickr/cc)

UN Human Rights Chief Slams Trump for Attacks on Environment, Refugees, and Children

Michelle Bachelet included the U.S. in her report on current human rights violations around the world.

Julia Conley

Michelle Bachelet, the top human rights official for the United Nations, condemned the U.S. government for violations of international law and President Donald Trump's anti-immigration and anti-climate science policies.

At the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet said the administration is endangering the rights of people, particularly children, around the world with its migration restrictions, its detention of immigrants including tens of thousands of children, and its disregard for the international right to seek asylum.

"Reducing the number of people trying to enter the country should not be done in disregard of asylum and migrant protections. The situation of children in detention is of particular concern."
—Michelle Bachelet, U.N.
"Reducing the number of people trying to enter the country should not be done in disregard of asylum and migrant protections," Bachelet said. "The situation of children in detention is of particular concern."

The president's signature anti-immigration policies include sending tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to Mexico to await their asylum hearings, resulting in the extortion, assaults, and murders of hundreds of people; the Muslim ban which has barred people from more than a dozen countries from entering the U.S.; and the continued separation of families who cross the southern U.S. border, even after the official policy ended in 2018.

Bachelet's remarks came as Amnesty International released a new report on rights violations throughout North, South, and Central America. In addition to pointing to rampant gun violence as "one of the biggest human rights concerns in the United States" and one that's been made worse by Trump's policies, Amnesty condemned anti-immigration policies in the country.

"The U.S. government misused the justice system to harass migrants' rights defenders, unlawfully detained children fleeing situations of violence and implemented new measures and policies to attack and massively restrict access to asylum, in violation of its obligations under international law," said the group.

Trump and other world leaders who are attacking the right to asylum "will find themselves on the wrong side of history," tweeted the group.

In Geneva, Bachelet also denounced some of Trump's environmental deregulation policies, which he has pushed even as the world's top climate scientists warn that unless human-caused carbon emissions are reduced by nearly half by 2030 and carbon neutrality is achieved by 2050, the world can expect global temperatures to rise by about 3° Celsius by the end of the century, bringing about the most catastrophic potential impacts of climate change.

"Weaker fuel emission standards for vehicles, and decreased regulations on the oil and gas industries, could also harm human rights," said Bachelet.

The president's giveaways to corporate polluters are harming public health, Bachelet added, including regulatory rollbacks like one announced last month that will allow companies to dump pesticides and other pollutants into streams and wetlands, threatening the health of millions of people.

"Untreated pollutants may now be poured directly into millions of miles of streams and rivers, putting ecosystems, drinking water and human health at risk," Bachelet said.

The threats posed by the Trump administration to human rights and health were mentioned in Bachelet's update on the top rights concerns in the world. The report places the president in the company of Burundi's government, which was criticized for its crackdown on political opposition; Boko Haram, which is waging violent attacks in Nigeria; and Brazilian companies and officials who are perpetrating violence against Indigenous rights and environmental defenders.

Meanwhile, the human rights commissioner praised the European Union for taking steps to make the continent carbon-neutral by 2050.

"Protection of our environment is fundamental to the enjoyment of all human rights," Bachelet said. "I welcome the leadership demonstrated by the European Union in adopting its Green Deal last December. It couples ambitious action within the E.U. with a strong dimension of external action, engaging both climate diplomacy and green cooperation aid. Implementation of this plan will greatly advance enjoyment of the right to a healthy environment, and I encourage strong social measures to ensure that just transitions leave no-one behind."

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