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UN Official: Human Rights at Risk from “Political Profiteers”

  • Lisa Schlein

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) looks on at the opening of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Feb. 27, 2017 in Geneva.

U.N. Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has warned world peace and stability based on fundamental human rights are under threat by so-called reckless political profiteers.

The high commissioner told delegates attending the opening session Monday of the month-long meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council many of the achievements that have been made in stabilizing the world order since the end of World War II are at risk of being lost by growing populism.

He said durable peace in many parts of the world and success in development during the seven decades following this shattering war were due to the observance of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the U.N. Charter and other international human rights treaties.

These achievements, he said “need to be absorbed, by many political actors who only see human rights as tiresome constraints” or by people who have enjoyed many of their rights since birth and take them for granted.

“It is only when rights are no longer upheld, the individual concerned understands with sharp clarity just how critical they were to a meaningful, dignified existence,” he said.

He cautioned the world had a lot to lose by heeding the ill-gotten campaigns being waged by political leaders against universal human rights or by their “threatened withdrawal from international or regional treaties and the institutions, which uphold them.”

U.S. media have reported the Trump Administration is considering withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, although State Department spokesman Mark Toner is quoted as saying “our delegation will be fully involved in the work of the HRC session which starts Monday.”

Antonio Guterres, who attended his first session of the Council in his capacity as U.N. Secretary-General, has expressed alarm at the growing disregard for human rights, calling it “a disease that is spreading” worldwide.

He said human rights are “an intrinsic part of all that we do.” He said human rights must be recognized as values and goals unto themselves and not allow them to be used “as a political tool.”

“We are increasingly seeing the perverse phenomenon of populism and extremism feeding off each other in a frenzy of growing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance,” he said. “Minorities, indigenous communities and others face discriminations and abuse across the world. And the same applies to members of the LGBTi community.”

Guterres warned the world is becoming more dangerous, less predictable, more chaotic and “more interconnected with the threat of global terrorism and violent extremism.”

The U.N. Chief told delegates attending the council the root causes of conflict must be tackled and they must “react earlier and more effectively in addressing human rights concerns.”

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