'Do As I Say, Not As I Do' Hypocrisy from the UN Commissioner for Human Rights

By Dan Cadman on March 9, 2018

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has lambasted the United States for its border detention policies, and its failure so far to enact an amnesty for so-called "Dreamers". According to Reuters, when discussing the findings in a new yearly report issued by his office al-Hussein asserted:

In the United States, I am shocked by reports that many migrants intercepted at the southern borders, including children, are detained in abusive conditions — such as freezing temperatures — and that some young children are being detained separately from their families. ... Detentions and deportations of long-standing and law-abiding migrants have sharply increased, tearing families apart and creating enormous hardship ... [and] I deplore the continuing uncertainty about beneficiaries of the DACA program.

One might think that this is an unwarranted intrusion into the domestic policies of the United States, and one would be right. After all, even the UN's refugee protocols acknowledge the right and obligation of nations to protect their borders, and to secure public safety and national security.

But the criticism is even more noteworthy in its hypocrisy considering the source. Al-Hussein is also known as Prince Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein of the royal family of Jordan (and, according to Wikipedia, would also be first in line for the throne of Iraq, were Iraq to revert to a monarchy, however unlikely that may be). He is a career Jordanian diplomat — which is to say, he is a member of a government that itself has had significant issues with the matter of human rights over the years. Take, for instance, these two snippets from a 2017 Human Rights Watch report:

Jordanian law criminalizes speech deemed critical of the king, foreign countries, government officials and institutions, as well as Islam and speech considered to defame others.


On August 14, authorities detained writer Nahed Hattar after he posted a cartoon on his Facebook page critical of ISIS. The cartoon depicted an ISIS fighter in bed with two women ordering God to bring him wine. Authorities charged him with insulting religion under article 278 of the penal code. Authorities stated that Hattar's arrest was intended to prevent defamation of religion. Hattar was later murdered on September 25 while entering an Amman court to attend a trial session.

And it is not just being a diplomat and royal family member of Jordan that raises doubts about al-Hussein's fitness for his current position. Apparently earlier in his life, al-Hussein was a member of the Royal Jordanian Desert Force (also known as the Royal Jordan Bedouin Force) which is — ironically — responsible for border patrol and enforcement of Jordan's frontiers with its desert neighbors. Amnesty International's 2017-2018 report on Jordan details the story of over 50,000 Syrian refugees forcibly held in the desert at the Jordanian border by its border forces:

Some 50,000 refugees from Syria remained trapped at Rukban in the "berm", a desert area between Jordan and Syria, with humanitarian access effectively blocked since June 2016, apart from in June 2017 when the authorities permitted one round of aid distribution. Refugees were trapped in appalling humanitarian conditions: food, medical assistance and shelter were extremely limited, and they had sporadic access to water.

In October, Jordan ended even limited cross-border aid and said that aid could only be delivered from Syria. The international community and Jordan failed to agree to a long-term solution for the stranded refugees who were denied access to asylum procedures or opportunities for resettlement to third countries.

Finally, it's worth noting that in April 2015, the prince, acting in his capacity as high commissioner, suspended from duty one Anders Kompass, his field operations director, after Kompass leaked to French authorities a secret internal report detailing sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by French peacekeepers.

The suspension was appealed and ultimately overturned by the UN's Dispute Tribunal, but the question remains: Why did Kompass feel obliged to take such extreme means to be sure that disciplinary action was taken by the French against its errant peacekeepers if the prince is so committed to transparency and human rights?

When all is said and done, it's clear that neither the prince nor his organization possess the moral authority to speak to the immigration policies of the United States when it comes to matters of mass illegal migration.