Hungary Says UN Rights Chief Should Step Down After Calling Its PM a Racist

Patrick Goodenough | February 27, 2018 | 4:18am EST
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U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein addresses the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, February 26, 2018. (Screen capture: U.N. Webcast)

( – Hungary’s foreign minister called Monday for U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to be removed from his post, after the U.N. official singled out Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for sharp criticism.

During opening remarks at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Zeid cited Orbán as an example of “xenophobes and racists in Europe.”

He was the only leader mentioned by name by the high commissioner in his hard-hitting remarks to the HRC as it opened a month-long session.

“Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment, like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán who earlier this month said, and I quote, ‘we do not want our color to be mixed in with others,’ end quote,” Zeid said.  “Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity?”

Addressing the HRC later in the day, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Zeid’s behavior was unacceptable, and should cost him his job. (Zeid announced last December he would not seek a second four-year term, so is expected to leave when his current one ends in September.)

Szijjarto observed that Zeid was no longer in the chamber.

“Where is the high commissioner now?” he asked. “How it comes that the high-ranking officials of the United Nations come here, give the introductory remarks, and they don’t listen to the reactions, they don’t listen to the member-states?”

He said Hungary rejected the attributes Zeid applied to its democratically-elected prime minister.

“International officials who behave like this became unworthy [of] their positions. So it is obvious that Zeid Al Hussein must step down. He’s unworthy [of] his position after his accusations and after his speech and his behavior even today.”

The context of the quote cited by Zeid was a Feb. 8 speech in which Orbán argued that a diverse community is not necessarily preferable to a homogeneous one.

“The simple fact that something is colorful and varied in character does not make it more valuable than something which is not,” he said.

“And it is very important for us to use this as a firm footing: we must not allow the ground to be cut away from under our feet in moral or ethical debates, because we must defend Hungary as it is now,” Orbán said.

“We must state that we do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed: we do not want our own color, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others. We do not want this.”

Orbán’s populist government is at odds with the U.N. and European Union over migration policy, a topic that dominated Szijjarto’s remarks at the HRC on Monday.

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