They are the worst crimes on earth – crimes against humanity, war crimes, and atrocities involving mass execution, rape, murder and torture.
On this week’s Talk to Al Jazeera our guest is the United Nations’ most senior human rights official: the man who must document and protest about these and other abuses around the world.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein became the high commissioner for human rights last year and he is the first Muslim to hold this post.
We cannot go back to a world of ethnically-pure states where somehow eugenics has a sort of role in this. We are far from that. The world has suffered enough from those sorts of rather reptilian policies. I say reptilian because they’re rather primitive. We need a much more enlightened approach and I believe that Chancellor Merkel’s position is one of great leadership and now the rest of Europe must also show a likewise generosity in keeping with the feelings of the people of Europe, which are not all xenophobic and anti-Muslim.
In our interview on the UN’s 70th anniversary, Al Jazeera’s James Bays talks to Hussein about the state of global human rights.
We focus on the war in Syria, the use of barrel bombs, the crimes of ISIL and the resulting refugee crisis in Europe. Hussein, who has been at the UN for 20 years, also discusses the Balkan wars.
He talks about how the world woke up to the plight of Syrians with the heart-rending image of toddler Alan Kurdi, who drowned off the Turkish coast in early September.
Hussein says there’s a “mean-spiritedness” among politicians, particularly in Eastern Europe.
He is highly critical of the Hungarian government’s treatment of refugees. Police there have used tear gas and water cannon on refugees and the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country does not welcome Muslims.
“I find it utterly appalling, really, the reactions and the policies of the Hungarian government – a great surprise to me.
“Next year we’ll be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising and one has to recall that in the first nine weeks, 164,000 Hungarians fled Hungary to the neighbouring states, principally Austria and Yugoslavia; eventually 200,000 Hungarians were settled in 37 countries, and how can it be, 60 years later that the political leadership in Hungary seems to have forgotten this?”
Hungary’s stance is “inexcusable”, says Hussein, “especially when contrasting this with the genuine generosity with many ordinary Hungarians who understand that these people are suffering people, by and large refugees, but even if they were not, if they were migrants, the conditions which led to departure doesn’t mean that in any way they don’t have human rights as well – the right to a dignified reception, the rights to counsel, the rights to health”.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has a unique perspective. He was formerly the ambassador to the UN for Jordan, a country directly caught up in the turmoil, and he served as president of the UN Security Council.
Neither Iraq nor Syria still have a monarchy, but if they did, High Commissioner Zeid – also known as Prince Zeid – would be one of those in direct line to inherit the throne. We speak to Hussein about all this and more, on Talk to Al Jazeera.
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