UN Cites Human Rights Issues in the Mideast, West

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The United Nation's top human rights official criticized Syria and Bahrain for significant human rights issues Monday, while also citing Western countries like France and Greece.

The assessment by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay came at the opening of the U.N.'s 47 nation Human Rights Council session.

U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon asked that the council focus on five areas including discrimination, sexual orientation violence, and women's rights.

"It is an affront to our conscience that millions of people still struggle against poverty, hunger and disease. These conditions violate their fundamental human rights," he said.

Pillay argued that respect for human rights is the key to peace and humanitarian efforts.

Syria topped the list of violators with an estimated 26,000 of its own civilians killed by an ongoing civil war that started against President Bashar Assad's regime in March 2011.

Second on the list was Bahrain for what Pillay called harsh prison sentences against 20 prominent rights activists, including seven who face life in prison.

Pillay cited problems in Colombia, Ivory Coast and Congo, then mentioned France and Greece. She also noted violations in Kenya, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Myanmar and many other countries.

"I am also 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," she said.

"Equally troubling are violent xenophobic attacks against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in recent months, for example, in Greece," Pillay added.

In addition to Greece, the United States, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and authorities in the Gaza Strip were cited for their use of the death penalty in recent cases.

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