Geneva (AFP) – The UN human rights chief delivered a stern reply to Hungary’s government on Tuesday after it demanded his resignation, pledging to remain in office while insisting Prime Minister Viktor Orban is “a racist”.
“It is time to stand up to the bullies of Mr Orban’s ilk”, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in statement.
At last week’s opening session of the UN Human Rights Council, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said it was “obvious” that Zeid had to resign, given his “inappropriate” criticism of Orban.
Zeid has been fiercely critical of Orban’s anti-migrant policies for months.
In his speech to the council, Zeid highlighted the prime minister’s recent warnings over the dangers of mixing races and argued the Budapest government was an example of surging, shameless racism in Europe.
“I stand by every single word”, Zeid said Tuesday.
“We are growing accustomed to the stoking of hatred for political profit. And this is Viktor Orban’s stock in trade”, the rights chief said.
“So yes, I did call the increasingly authoritarian – though democratically elected – Viktor Orban a racist and xenophobe…
“And no, I will not resign ‘with no delay’, as a letter from his minister demanded,” Zeid continued, adding that hatred is a combustible force; and it will not win – not in Europe; and not today.”
Orban has made repeated comments indicating that an influx of Muslims and Africans poses an existential threat to Hungarian culture.
He has also suggested that the Hungarian-American billionaire investor George Soros is orchestrating a plot to fill the country with migrants.
The Orban government has introduced legislation that aims to sanction civil society groups which receive funding from Soros-linked organisations.
Zeid has previously said that he will not seek a second term beyond his current mandate which expires later this year.