UN Human-Rights Chief Skeptical of US Engagement in Geneva
The sound-bites coming out of the new Trump administration in the United States seem to have worried Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
President Donald Trump’s failure to commit to international human rights and his lack of a coherent foreign policy could have serious repercussions over the next four years. International observers fear that autocrats are already taking a cue from the new president’s apparent disregard for human rights?—?and they’re using it as cover to crack down in their own countries.
The London-based Amnesty International in its report released on Wednesday February 22 says “toxic” fear-mongering by anti-establishment politicians, among them President Donald Trump and the leaders of Turkey, Hungary and the Philippines, is contributing to a global pushback against human rights.
Releasing its 408-page annual report on rights abuses around the world, the watchdog group described 2016 as “the year when the cynical use of ‘us vs. them’ narratives of blame, hate and fear took on a global prominence to a level not seen since the 1930s,” when Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany.
Amnesty named the United States president Donald Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte among leaders it said are “wielding a toxic agenda that hounds, scapegoats and dehumanizes entire groups of people.”
“Poisonous” rhetoric employed by Trump in his election campaign exemplified “the global trend of angrier and more divisive politics,” Amnesty said.
The report said governments “turned a blind eye to war crimes, pushed through deals that undermine the right to claim asylum, passed laws that violate free expression, incited murder of people simply because they are accused of using drugs, justified torture and mass surveillance, and extended draconian police powers.”
A week before the Amnesty International released its report, the UN Human Rights Chief Al Hussein in an address to US Institute of Peace in Washington on 16 February declared “It would be a gaping hole if the US were to disengage from the human rights machinery.”
He told an audience of foreign policy experts, human-rights advocates and students of diplomacy that the drive toward protectionism, unilateralism and the proclamation of national or religious purity is “deeply alarming.”
Ambassador Nikki Haley, the Trump administration’s envoy to the UN in New York, put the Geneva-based Human Rights Council at the top of her list of UN targets during her confirmation hearing in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Al Hussein, in his Washington address, further targeting the Trump administration said “One hopes that the administration would take a very careful look at this, and realize that human rights are not some garnish on a plate, but are absolutely fundamental to the maintenance of peace and security and some sort of world order.”
In another sly comment toward the Trump administration, the Human Rights High Commissioner declared “Today’s nationalists seem to deliberately feed off the threat of terrorism,” adding that the blanket accusations against Muslims, who are the overwhelming majority of Islamist terrorists’ victims, is not the answer. “Imprecision can be a blunt and terrible instrument. When victims are dishonored by those who exploit their very real suffering for political purposes, is that not imprecision in its most cynical form?”
Al Hussein who administers the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva sounds somewhat ‘disabled’ with the advent of the Trump administration in the United States. The rhetoric of candidate Donald Trump during the campaign, his administration’s certain measures through some highly-controversial Executive Orders, Al Hussein’s warnings in his address to US Institute of Peace, and London-based Amnesty International’s scathing criticism in its just released Global Report of Trump’s trajectory on human rights seem to devalue the importance of the Geneva-based UNHRC once had during the Obama administration. Obama’s state department, in which most top positions related to human rights occupied by liberal-leaning officials, exerted catastrophic pressure on many Third World nations to open up domestic investigations – with foreign jurists – on incidents of alleged violation of international humanitarian law.
Trump administration has sounded, though no steady policy planks have been established yet, that it would tread a different path to that of the Obama White House and state department. Trump, during his campaign for president and since inauguration, has taken a strong policy toward terrorism in the global arena and has vowed to take strong measures to combat it not allowing human rights issues to obstruct it. The US president’s chief policy counselor who is now elevated to a coveted position in the White House National Security Council Stephen Bannon, it is reported, has scant regard for human rights.
Having known this scenario, the Geneva-based Human Rights Chief Al Hussein therefore has a genuine grievance.
- Asian Tribune -