The United Nations human rights chief says his office is “watching the United States very carefully” under President Donald Trump, even as it watches whether possible US budgetary cuts could affect his agency’s ability to monitor crimes like torture, rape and killings worldwide. The comments today from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein came in his first meeting in months with the UN press corps in Geneva, where he laid out an array of concerns about countries like Turkey, Venezuela, South Sudan, Syria and beyond. Zeid, a Jordanian prince, said he’d noticed a “change in some of the rhetoric” from Trump since he took office in January, and expressed hopes that the president’s campaign trail rhetoric on issues like torture would “dissipate”.
In October, Zeid had said Trump would be “dangerous from an international point of view” unless he changed his rhetoric on issues like torture and immigrants. Zeid also said his office, which gets crucial funding from the US for its operations around the world, was waiting on Trump administration’s plans to cut funding for the US State Department and international organisations. “As yet, we have no real clear idea what the impact will be on our particular office,” he said of the budget outline shared by the White House with Washington government circles.
The rights chief also expressed concern about rights in Turkey, alluding to a massive government crackdown after a failed coup last July. He noted that some 10,000 Turkish police officers were reportedly suspended last week alone. “The terror attacks need to be tackled, but not at the expense of human rights,” Zeid said. “I am very concerned about the renewed state of emergency which was undertaken in mid-April and the climate of fear” in Turkey.