UN rights chief slams 'political fantasists'

THE HAGUE • The UN human rights chief has launched a scathing attack on populist politicians such as US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, calling for action to halt such "demagogues and political fantasists".

Speaking in The Hague, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that he was a Muslim whose role was "to defend and promote the human rights of each individual, everywhere".

"And I am angry, too. Because of Mr Wilders' lies and half-truths, manipulations and peddling of fear," Mr Zeid said at the inauguration of the Hague-based Peace, Justice and Security Foundation.

Last month, Mr Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) launched its campaign platform ahead of March elections vowing to "close mosques, Islamic schools and ban the Quran" if elected.

The PVV, which has been leading in opinion polls, also vowed to reverse "Islamisation" of the Netherlands by closing borders, shutting asylum seeker centres, banning migrants from Muslim countries and stopping Muslim women from wearing the headscarf.

Mr Zeid slammed the PVV's proposals and said Mr Wilders had much in common with Mr Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, France's National Front leader Marine Le Pen and leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage.

He said such people had similarities to the ideology espoused by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group.

"All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion," Mr Zeid said. "A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever."

Promises to recover such a past were "fiction", he said.

"We must pull back from this trajectory," Mr Zeid warned, adding that there was a risk "the atmosphere will become thick with hate" which could "descend rapidly into colossal violence".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'UN rights chief slams 'political fantasists''. Print Edition | Subscribe