UN human rights chief slams 'half-truths and oversimplification' of populists

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein argued that demagogues are seeking a return to a past that "did not exist anywhere"

UN human rights chief slams 'half-truths and oversimplification' of populists

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. Image:

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned against the rise of 'populists and demagogues' in Europe and the US.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein made the comments during a speech in the Hague, focusing particularly on the Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders.

It follows the release of a controversial manifesto by Mr Wilders' PVV party, which includes a pledge to "de-islamize the Netherlands".

Mr Zeid said he is a Muslim, and is angry about Mr Wilders' "lies and half-truths, manipulations and peddling of fear".

"Geert Wilders released his grotesque eleven-point manifesto only days ago, and a month ago he spoke along similar lines in Cleveland, in the United States," Mr Zeid said. "I will not repeat what he has said, but there are many who will, and his party is expected to do well in the elections in March.

"And yet what Mr Wilders shares in common with Mr Trump, Mr Orban, Mr Zeman, Mr Hofer, Mr Fico, Madame Le Pen, Mr Farage, he also shares with Da’esh [Islamic State]."

Mr Zeid argued that all are attempting to recover a 'halycon' and peaceful past "free of crime, foreign influence and war".

He suggested it is a "past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever".

He added: "The proposition of recovering a supposedly perfect past is fiction; its merchants are cheats [...] Populists use half-truths and oversimplification - the two scalpels of the arch propagandist, and here the internet and social media are a perfect rail for them, by reducing thought into the smallest packages: sound-bites; tweets."

He stressed that he did not intend to equate populists' tactics with the "sickening" actions of Islamic State, but suggested "propaganda of Da’esh uses tactics similar to those of the populists".

He concluded by stating: "We will not be bullied by you the bully, nor fooled by you the deceiver, not again, no more; because we, not you, will steer our collective fate.  And we, not you, will write and sculpt this coming century.  Draw the line!"

You can read the full speech here.

Responding to the comments, Mr Wilders said the UN is "grotesque":