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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says women are being silenced 

Michelle Bachelet calls for safer environment for activists and journalists 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends an ACANU briefing in Geneva, Switzerland. Reuters 
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends an ACANU briefing in Geneva, Switzerland. Reuters 

In one of her first engagements as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said the world is losing touch with human rights.

Ms Bachelet said on Thursday women and women rights defenders are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations and stressed the need to do more to counter the problem.

“We are witnessing widespread efforts to silence and delegitimise specifically targeted at women human rights defenders,” she said speaking at an event hosted by the International Peace Institute.

The former Chilean president, who was tortured by her country's military in 1975, said that while technology has enabled women to embolden their cause it also runs the risk of being used against them.

“Online campaigns against women human rights defenders aim to damage their credibility as advocates, diminish the power of their voices, and restrict the space where women can mobilise and make a difference,” she said.

Without naming countries, Ms Bachelet said some authorities are attempting to undermine women rights defenders and weaken their voices. Despite this, she added, there is still an active civil society making progress on these matters.

“Heroic men and women have stepped forward to claim the rights for their fellow human beings, and many have succeeded,” she said. Activists can be a “powerful antidote to extremism”.

Ms Bachelet stressed the need to create a safe environment for activists and journalists to pursue their work and this way counter the decay of human rights.

“We need to safeguard the rights of people around the world, not just in our societies, people who are struggling to shape a world of great equality and great dignity,” she said.

She said that citizens need to remind officials that criticism of their governments is not terrorism, but an attempt to better the world.

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