UN Rights Experts: Bigoted Statements Make Politicians ‘Complicit in the Violence That Follows’

By Patrick Goodenough | August 8, 2019 | 4:24am EDT
On President Trump’s orders, the American flag flies at half staff in memory of those killed in the Texas and Ohio shootings. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – In an implicit attack on President Trump, a group of U.N. human rights experts on Wednesday linked recent mass shootings in the United States to politicians’ rhetoric, saying that “the use of race to instill fear, gain votes or power, or mask injustices must stop.”

Noting that the perpetrators of some mass shootings have cited “political discourse that devalues and dehumanizes people on the basis of their race, religion, immigration status and/or ethnicity,” the experts said politicians responsible for such rhetoric were “complicit” when acts of violence followed.

“There should be no doubt that the use of hate speech, intolerance, bigotry and racism by politicians and leaders to secure or maintain popular support renders those individuals complicit in the violence that follows,” said Tendayi Achiume, the U.N.’s “special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

Achiume, a Zambian-born UCLA School of Law professor, issued a statement jointly with the U.N.’s five-person “working group of experts on people of African descent.”

Neither she nor they mentioned Trump or any other politician by name.

Trump has been accused of inspiring, through his statements on illegal migration, the gunman who shot dead 22 people in an El Paso Walmart on Saturday. (The suspect’s alleged manifesto rails against Hispanic migration, although the writer claims his views “predate Trump and his campaign for president.” The manifesto also condemns the “takeover of the United States government by unchecked corporations,” and bemoans automation, environmental degradation, and overpopulation.)

The shooter in the Dayton, Ohio attack early on Sunday, expressed support for left-wing Democratic presidential candidates and retweeted posts supportive of the so-called Antifa activist movement.

The joint statement from the U.N. experts made no reference to far-left or ecology-related extremist ideologies.

“The connections between mass shootings and white extremist ideology are well-established, and celebration of these atrocities in white nationalist social media is common,” it said.

“The manifestos and social media posts of these attackers reflect political discourse that devalues and dehumanizes people on the basis of their race, religion, immigration status and/or ethnicity. The attackers in several mass shootings cited this rhetoric, along with ideas propounded by white nationalist movements and populist movements, as inspiration.”

Tendayi Achiume, the U.N.’s “special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Doubling down on the “complicity” accusation, the statement continued:

“The refusal, in the face of repeated incidents to pursue immediate and direct action to prevent further acts of domestic terrorism exacerbates these politicians and leaders’ complicity in the violence.”

Comments by Trump since the weekend attacks have stoked debate about the roles in mass shootings played by mental illness and easy access to firearms. After the president said Monday that “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger,” the American Psychiatric Association (APA) pushed back.

“Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing,” APA president Rosie Phillips Davis said in a statement. “Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.”

The U.N. experts pointed to the APA statement, which they characterized as “confirming that mental illness insufficiently explains the proliferation of mass shootings.”

They encouraged the U.S. to address the violence “without delay as a matter of white supremacy and racism.”

‘Why should any civilian, anywhere, be able to acquire an assault rifle?’

The statement was issued in Geneva, where a day earlier a spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also addressed the issue.

The spokesman, Rupert Colville, welcomed Trump’s comments this week condemning “racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”

He also voiced support for tighter gun controls in the U.S.

Colville quoted from a 2016 statement by Bachelet’s predecessor, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein – issued after the Orlando nightclub shooting – in which Zeid called on the U.S. to meet its responsibility to protect citizens from the “horrifyingly commonplace but preventable violent attacks that are the direct result of insufficient gun control.”

“He specifically said, you know, why should any civilian, anywhere, be able to acquire an assault rifle or other high-powered weapon designed to kill lots of people?” Colville continued.

Zeid’s statement, endorsed by Bachelet, was unfortunately “particularly applicable after what happened last weekend,” he said.

Asked whether Bachelet thought Trump’s “anti-migrant rhetoric may have contributed to this violence,” Colville settled for a more general reply.

All authorities, everywhere, he said, have the “responsibility to ensure that their actions do not contribute in any way to public attitudes and negative stereotypes that lead to discriminatory, or in this case, violent practices.”

On whether mass shooters were mentally ill, the spokesman quoted again from Zeid’s statement: “It is hard to find a rational justification that explains the ease with which people can buy firearms, including assault rifles, in spite of prior criminal backgrounds, drug use, histories of domestic violence and mental illness.”

“So mental illness might be a factor in some cases, but it clearly was not the factor in every case,” Colville added. “The bottom line is, if you have assault rifles, there’s a risk people will use them for whatever reason, whether it’s mental illness or some other reason, someone with blind hatred of a particular group, or criminals, or so on.”

See also:
U.N. Human Rights Chief Says U.S. Needs ‘Robust Gun Regulation’ (June 15, 2016)

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