GENEVA, Switzerland — Hungary on Monday demanded that the UN’s top human rights official step down over his “unacceptable” and “inappropriate” criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-migration rhetoric.
“It is obvious that Zeid (Ra’ad) Al Hussein must step down. He is unworthy to his position,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, slamming the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ criticism earlier Monday of Orban as “very inappropriate.”
During the opening of the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Zeid warned of a general deterioration in the respect for rights around the world, but Orban was the only leader singled out by name.
“Today, oppression is fashionable again. The security state is back and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat,” he said.
“Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment, like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who earlier this month said ‘we do not want our color … to be mixed in with others.”
“Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity?” asked Zeid, who has already announced he will not seek a second term when his mandate expires later this year.
His comments enraged Szijjarto, who charged that the UN rights chief had “accused Hungary (of being) comparable to the worst dictatorships of the last century.”
“It is very inappropriate that UN officials accuse member states and democratically elected leaders,” he said, insisting that “this is simply unacceptable.”
He also voiced outrage that Zeid had not remained in the room to listen to the response to his comments from member countries.
“It is an obvious question: Where is the high commissioner now. Why doesn’t he listen to the member states?” Szijjarto asked.
He stuck to Orban’s hardline immigration stance, insisting the UN and other international organizations had no business telling Hungary who it should allow into the country, or that it should not criminalize illegal migration.
“Violating borders must be considered as crime and must be sanctioned,” he said, insisting that “migration is dangerous, … (but) it is not unstoppable.”
“It is stoppable and we have to stop it,” he said.