UN Human Rights Chief: Trump Trying to ‘Intimidate or Undermine’ Journalists and Judges

By Patrick Goodenough | March 9, 2017 | 4:23 AM EST

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein opens a session of the world body's Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 29, 2016 (UN Photo/Pierre Albouy)

(CNSNews.com) – In fresh criticism of President Trump, the top United Nations human rights official on Wednesday condemned the “vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims” in the U.S. and accused the president of trying to “intimidate or undermine journalists and judges.”

Presenting his annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was “concerned by the new administration’s handling of a number of human rights issues.”

“Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities,” he said. “Vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims, and false claims that migrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens, are harmful and fuel xenophobic abuses.”

Zeid said he was “dismayed at attempts by the president to intimidate or undermine journalists and judges.”

Turning to Trump’s latest travel executive order and policies aimed at curbing illegal immigration, he expressed concern about both, saying that the latter “threaten to vastly increase use of detention, including of children.”

“Expedited deportations could amount to collective expulsions and refoulement (forcible return), in breach of international law, if undertaken without due process guarantees, including individual assessment,” Zeid said, citing a legal term for the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to countries where they could face persecution.

“I am especially disturbed by the potential impact of these changes on children, who face being detained, or may see their families torn apart,” he added.

Zeid’s speech was a snapshot of his views on the state of human rights around the world, and included criticisms of policies in numerous countries.

Forty percent of funding for the office Zeid heads in Geneva comes from the U.N. regular budget, and 22 percent of that comes from the U.S. in “assessed contributions.”

American taxpayers accounted for an additional $17.4 million in “voluntary contributions” to the high commissioner’s office in 2016.

A Jordanian diplomat who is the first Muslim and first Arab to hold the post of high commissioner, Zeid has been outspokenly critical of Trump, both before and since last November’s election.

He has lumped Trump together with populist and nationalist leaders or candidates for elected office in Europe, warning in a speech in Washington last month about a drive towards “protectionism, unilateralism and the proclamations of national or religious purity.”

On one occasion, in New York last September, he described such politicians as “racists and xenophobes” for wanting to put curbs of refugee admissions, saying that “the defenders of what is good and right are being outflanked in too many countries by race-baiting bigots, who seek to gain – or retain – power by wielding prejudice and deceit, at the expense of those most vulnerable.”

On another that same month, Zeid said in Geneva that in the months ahead “a number of elections will be held in well-established democracies, with dangerous xenophobes and bigots running for office, and what falls to us then – what falls to us then – could begin to determine, as never before, the future course of ‘we the peoples’ of this Earth.”

And in The Hague a week earlier, he put names to his targets – describing as “demagogues and political fantasists” Trump, Austria’s then-presidential candidate Norbert Hofer, the Dutch anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders, Czech President Milos Zeman, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, and French National Front leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

As early as April last year, Zeid criticized then presidential candidate Trump (although not by name, calling him “a front-running candidate to be president of this country.”)

In a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, Zeid said the U.S. presidential campaign was being marred by “bigotry” and the “demonizing” of minorities.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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