• Bachelet's disappointing visit to China; 
  • Russia sentences activist on sham charges; 
  • Afghan women are still protesting; 
  • Canada needs more extreme-heat protection; 
  • Mexico decriminalizes abortion, US restricts it; 
  • Looking forward: upcoming report on Ukraine.
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For the first time since 2015, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights had a possible opportunity to access China first-hand. Her visit could have been a great moment for Michelle Bachelet to discuss the Chinese authorities’ crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region. Now, back from her six-day trip to China, the result is grim, as the UN rights chief failed to publicly condemn Beijing's abuses. “Nothing that we’ve seen from the high commissioner’s trip to China dispels our worry that this will be used as a massive propaganda victory for the Chinese government,” says Louis Charbonneau, Human Rights Watch's UN director. It is now beyond time for Bachelet to release her long-delayed report on human rights in Xinjiang and to speak out clearly about widespread abuses in China.

While international attention is focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Russian authorities continue their persecution of "undesirable" activists at home. On Friday, a Russian court handed Mikhail Iosilevich a 20-month custodial sentence and ordered him to pay civil damages. Russian authorities have been harassing journalists and activists under an abusive law, which states that foreign or international organizations designated as “undesirable” must cease all activities in Russia. Iosilevich is the first person who may serve prison time for such charges. “Iosilevich’s prosecution, verdict, and sentence is truly a travesty of justice for him, his family, and supporters,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. This sentencing is also a message of intimidation to other Russian activists and their supporters.

Since taking over Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have instituted a de facto ban on girls’ secondary education. And beyond restricting the right to education, Taliban actions have also pushed women out of most employment, curtailed women’s freedom of movement, obstructed women’s access to health care, and abolished the system designed to protect women and girls from violence. In spite of all these restrictions and the risks attached to it, Afghan women are still protesting for their rights to be respected.

A year ago, Human Rights Watch documented the deadly heatwave in Western Canada, when older people and people with disabilities were exposed to preventable suffering and even death, and 600 people died due to extreme heat. If the worst is yet to come, there's still a lot Canada’s federal and provincial governments can do to prepare and  respond to extreme heat this summer - access to cooling and targeted support are a good place to start. People with disabilities and older people should not have to wait for necessary assistance.

Guerrero recently became Mexico’s eighth state to decriminalize abortion. This follows a 2021 decision by the country’s highest court unequivocally recognizing that criminalization of abortion violates the human rights of pregnant people, such as the right to life, to health, and to be free from violence. Guerrero adds to the list of states that understand that decriminalization of abortion is a matter of human rights. This expansion of abortion rights comes while access is under threat in the United States, with the Supreme Court possibly moving to reverse Roe v. Wade, and the US state of Oklahoma passing a law to ban nearly all abortions. 

Since the renewal of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, Human Rights Watch has published dozens of reports and briefings on war crimes. In June, we will be looking at the Russia's forced transfers of Ukrainians from Ukraine to Russia...

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