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U.N. rights chief singles out France, Greece as worrisome

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay listens to an unidentified person before a side-event of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva September 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

GENEVA: The U.N.’s top human rights official has, in an unusual move, singled out France and Greece as worrisome areas while raising concerns about suspected abuses in dozens of other nations.

Navi Pillay told the Geneva-based council Monday she is “worried by the recent forced closure of Roma camps in France, which have affected hundreds of people, making them even more vulnerable and exposed to a whole range of human rights concerns.”

French police late last month expelled hundreds of Roma from camps in the Paris suburb of Stains and elsewhere.

French authorities have justified their actions saying the squalid camps represent a threat to the health of their inhabitants and can be dangerous.

The U.N. last week said legal safeguards should be in place to ensure children, women and those with illnesses or disability were not left homeless or vulnerable.

Pillay said: “I acknowledge that a number of steps have been taken by the government, but further efforts must be made to address this situation within the context of the national strategy for Roma integration and fully in line with international human rights.”

Pillay also noted problems in Greece, where there has been a surge in racist attacks against immigrants with dark skin.

“Equally troubling are violent xenophobic attacks against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in recent months, for example, in Greece,” Pillay said. “I am also concerned about reports that the police appeared to have been unable to respond effectively to protect victims of xenophobic crimes.”

Greece launched a campaign in August to try to seal its northeastern border with Turkey in the face of a crippling financial crisis that has caused joblessness to soar.

Pillay also criticized the U.S., along with Belarus, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and authorities in the Gaza Strip for their use of the death penalty in recent cases.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 11, 2012, on page 10.

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