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Disdain for Human Rights "A Disease That's Spreading," Warns UN Chief

Warning comes as Trump administration reportedly considers pulling out of UN Human Rights Council

Antonio Guterres

U.N. secretary general Antonio Guterres condemned "the perverse phenomenon of populism and extremism feeding off each other" on Monday. (Photo: AP)

"Disregard for human rights is a disease, and it is a disease that is spreading," warned United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a keynote address as the U.N. Human Rights Council (OHCHR) opened its main session on Monday.

"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," Guterres said, referring to growing intolerance in the U.S. and Europe as far-right figures such as President Donald Trump gain power.

In his remarks, Guterres particularly singled out the rights of migrants and refugees as "under attack." The speech came weeks after the Trump administration barred refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries in a sweeping travel ban, and amidst a U.S. government onslaught against undocumented immigrants.

Indeed, Guterres' comments echoed a report published last week by Amnesty International, which found that Trump's rhetoric has made the world "darker" and "more unstable," as Common Dreams reported.

"The Human Rights Council must be part of the cure," Guterres said.

Following Guterres' speech, OHCHR chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein spoke and condemned "reckless political profiteers" who threaten not only human rights, but the "very future of our planet."

"We will not sit idly by," Zeid said during his speech. "And our rights, the rights of others, the very future of our planet cannot, must not, be thrown aside by these reckless political profiteers."

Zeid also urged nations to resist those who "threaten the multilateral system or intend to withdraw from parts of it."

Indeed, Zeid's and Guterres' warnings came as rumors fly that the Trump administration is considering pulling out of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

An unnamed former state department official reportedly told Politico: "There's been a series of requests coming from the secretary of state's office that suggests that [Secretary of State Rex Tillerson] is questioning the value of the U.S. belonging to the Human Rights Council." The unnamed official blamed the council's stance on Israel and "doubts about its usefulness" for the potential decision to withdraw.

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