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In 1st key speech, new UN human rights chief airs concerns

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Chilean Michelle Bachelet addresses her statement during the opening of 39th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on Sept. 10, 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (AP) -- The new U.N. human rights chief warned Monday about abuses worldwide, citing among others the Trump administration's "unconscionable" separations of migrant families and urging the European Union to create a dedicated search and rescue operation for migrants in the Mediterranean sea.

Michelle Bachelet made her first address to the Human Rights Council as it opened a three-week session on Monday. The former Chilean president, once a political detainee herself, became U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights this month.

Bachelet denounced a lack of "redress" for migrant families who were separated by U.S. authorities after being detained in a now-discontinued practice of separating children from their families.

She encouraged the European Union to ensure access to asylum and rights protections, and faulted the government of member country Italy in particular for "political posturing" with its policy of denying entry to NGO rescue ships.

According to her prepared remarks, Bachelet said "attacks and persecution appear to be continuing" against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Bachelet echoed calls by U.N. investigators last month for the creation of an independent "mechanism" to collect and analyze information about rights abuses in Myanmar for possible future use in national or international courts. She urged the council to pass a resolution referring the issue to the U.N. General Assembly, which could create such a mechanism.

As for Syria, Bachelet expressed concern about "ongoing military operations" in rebel-held Idlib province, saying the suffering of Syrian people has been "interminable and terrible" and appealing for justice for victims of human rights violations during the 7-1/2-year civil war.

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