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US needs better leadership to meet challenges: UN

Protesters demonstrate against the US travel ban during a rally at San Diego International Airport on March 6, 2017 © AFP/File / Sandy Huffaker

Geneva, Switzerland, Mar 8 – The UN human rights chief took aim at US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying the country needed better leadership to meet grave challenges like surging xenophobia and religious discrimination.

“I am concerned by the new administration’s handling of a number of human rights issues,” Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein told the main annual session of the UN rights council, in his latest swipe at the new US leader.

“Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities,” he added.

Zeid warned that Washington’s “vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims” as well as “false claims” about higher crime rates among migrants “fuel xenophobic abuses.”

And, taking direct aim at Trump personally, Zeid said he was “dismayed at attempts by the president to intimidate or undermine journalists and judges.”

Major media organisations as well as press freedom groups have accused Trump of threatening reporters in an unprecedented manner for a president, including by referring to the media as “the enemy of the people.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein addressed the opening session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, on February 27, 2017 © AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI

Zeid had been the first top UN figure to speak out against Trump’s initial travel ban and on Wednesday blasted a revised executive order that bars entry of people from six mainly Muslim countries.

The rights chief said the measure raised the risk of potentially illegal deportations.

“Expedited deportations could amount to collective expulsions and refoulement, in breach of international law,” Zeid said, stressing his concern about its impact on children and “families torn apart.”

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