Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN.jpg
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein arrives for the opening of the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 13 September 2016.
Photograph: EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

An increasing number of governments are denying access to UN human rights observers by claiming that no one should meddle in their internal affairs, UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said Tuesday.

The UN high commissioner for human rights called out a number of countries including Turkey, China and the Philippines for delaying or outright blocking independent UN monitoring.

"States may shut my office out – but they will not shut us up; neither will they blind us," Zeid said at the annual September session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"On the contrary, efforts to duck or refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: What, precisely, are you hiding from us?," the Jordanian UN diplomat said.

Zeid not only highlighted the problems of investigating dictatorships like North Korea or Syria.

He also criticized Turkey for refusing monitoring in restive Kurdish regions.

"We have received repeated and serious allegations of ongoing violations of international law as well as human rights concerns, including civilian deaths, extrajudicial killings and massive displacement," Zeid said.

Although the Ankara government had invited him to travel to the region, such a visit would be no substitute for a real mission of UN rights experts, he said.

Zeid also noted that Beijing has been holding discussions about a UN rights mission with his office for the past 11 years.

The UN rights office has been concerned about reported harassment of human rights activists in China, and about the persecution of ethnic and religious groups.

In addition, the UN rights chief demanded access to the Philippines, where hundreds of suspected drug criminals have been killed as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

"Empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice," Zeid said.

The UN rights chief also highlighted the US government's refusal to allow a UN investigation into reported serious violations at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

In Latin America, Zeid singled out the non-cooperation of Venezuela, despite alleged political repression and the sharp economic decline that has resulted in hunger and health-care problems.

Diplomats from these and other countries often protest that the UN is trying to meddle in their national affairs.

Zeid recalled that South Africa's apartheid regime had used similar arguments, but that "these efforts to shield serious human rights violations from outside scrutiny were conclusively and repeatedly rejected" by UN member countries.

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