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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticizes populists, including Czech President

7.9.2016 6:55
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, has criticized populist and ultra-right politicians, comparing their rhetoric to that of the radical movement of the so-called Islamic State. Among those he called "clever cheats" and political demagogues were the Dutch critic of Islam, Geert Wilders; the head  of the French National Front, Marine Le Pen; Republican candidate for the President of the United States, Donald Trump; Czech President Miloš Zeman; and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Zeman's spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček has objected to Hussein's remarks. "What Mr Wilders shares in common with Mr Trump, with [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán, with Mr Zeman, with [Austrian presidential candidate Robert] Hofer, with Madame Le Pen, with [British nationalist representative Nigel] Farage, he also shhares with Da'esh," the Time magazine news portal quoted Hussein saying in a speech on Monday at a conference in The Hague, using the Arabic acronym Da'esh to refer to the so-called Islamic State.

"Populists use half-truths and oversimplification – the two scalpels of the arch propagandist," Hussein said, adding that the perfect space for such work is the Internet and social media. Responding to the High Commissioner's words, Ovčáček told the Czech News Agency that Zeman "will continue to protect the Czech Republic from the danger of terrorism connected with migration. No Commissioner will dictate to our country."

Ovčáček also called Hussein's statements "interference" with the sovereignty of various states. "Essentially this is even an attempt to interfere with free elections in the United States, we must realize that," the Czech President's spokesperson said.

Zeman has spoken consistently of the danger that the wave of migration into Europe is bringing, according to his spokesperson. "The Commissioner is systematically doing his best, through various expressive remarks in various forms, to force individual European countries to accept illegal migrants," the spokesperson said.

While Hussein mentioned many European politicians who hold controversial opinions, and while Trump is famous for his indiscriminate remarks, the main target of his criticism was Wilders. "Because my father is an Arab and my mother is a European, I am a Muslim who is also white, which surprises the racists. I resent Wilders and his half-truths, his imposition of fear, his lies and manipulation," Hussein said.

Wilders faces charges of inciting hatred for his remarks about Moroccan immigrants and recently published an election manifesto in which he promises to close all of the mosques in the Netherlands and to ban immigration from Muslim countries if he were to acquire power. Hussein said the Dutch politician's program is absurd.

Hussein also said the history of Wilders and those like him has taught us how effective it is to use the weapons of blind prejudice and xenophobia. "Make no mistake, naturally I am not equating the actions of nationalist demagogues with those of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, [but] the latter's mode of communication, use of half-truths and oversimplification... [its] propaganda uses tactics similar to those of populists," he emphasized.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recalled that the number of cases of discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin is growing, as are cases of children being humiliated because of their ethnic and religious roots. "Entire communities are being smeared with suspicion of collusion with terrorists," he said.

Wilders' ultra-right Freedom Party (PVV) is seated in Parliament and currently leads public opinion polls in the Netherlands. Parliamentary elections will take place there in 2017.

Hussein is a member of the Jordanian royal family and has previously sought the office of UN Secretary General; he has been the High Commissioner since 2014. According to Wikipedia, he is the first Muslim to ever hold that influential post.

During his diplomatic career, Hussein was twice Jordan's Ambassador to the UN and was also Ambassador to the United States. He is a stringent critic of sexual violence and a strong advocate of the International Criminal Court, whose powers include prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and war crimes. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Islamophobia, Miloš Zeman, OSN, Populism, Xenophobia



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