A Trump win would be ‘dangerous’ internationally, says U.N. human rights commissioner

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/flickr)

The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights is worried about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. Generally concerned with war criminals and human rights abusers, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein held a press conference Wednesday to discuss Trump.

“If Donald Trump is elected, on the basis of what he has said already, and unless that changes, I think it’s without any doubt that he would be dangerous from an international point of view,” he said.

Zaid is concerned by statements made by Trump that condone the use of torture and enable the persecution of minorities. Trump built his support in the Republican primaries by promoting policies to stop illegal migration from Mexico and block the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Zeid said that his intent is not to meddle in political campaigns, but he could not stay silent when human rights were threatened by Trump.

“We have to be on guard to see that in the end vulnerable populations, populations at risk, do not again see their rights deprived because of a view that is in the ascendancy based on false premises,” he said.

Zeid RaÕad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights during opening day of the 32nd session of the Human Right Council. 13 June 2016. UN Photo / Jean-Marc FerrŽ

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights (Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc FerrŽ)

It is not the first time Zeid publicly criticized Trump. Last month he delivered remarks at The Hague in the Netherlands that critically assessed the ascendance of populist and nationalist sentiment in Europe and the U.S. Heads of state and opposition leaders from France, Slovakia, Austria, the U.K. and the Czech Republic were listed alongside Trump as examples of a concerning trend.

He compared the communication tactics of those “populists, demagogues and political fantasists” with that of the Islamic State. Both sides are looking to the past and using religious and racial identities to unite people with the promise of returning to a time when things were supposedly better, he said. That past, which involves two World Wars, is not as rosy as it is portrayed.

“The formula is therefore simple: Make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it’s all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing,” he said. “Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them, but a horrendous injustice to others. Inflame and quench, repeat many times over, until anxiety has been hardened into hatred.”

Wednesday’s remarks shed the concerns of an international trend and focused solely on Trump. Zeid focused on the importance of leaders in providing the direction that upholds morality and protects human rights. The rhetoric by Trump during the presidential campaign points toward an administration that would brazenly curtail human rights, a reality Zeid says is “deeply unsettling and disturbing.”

“I always believe that it’s incumbent on leaders to lead and to lead in a way that is ethical and moral,” he said. “The use of half-truths is a very clever political device. Because as every propagandist knows, you allow the listener to fill in the rest.”

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.