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Zeid warns against populists and demagogues in Europe and U.S.

Peace, Justice and Security Foundation gala, 
The Hague, 5 September 2016

Dear Friends,

I wish to address this short statement to Mr. Geert Wilders, his acolytes, indeed to all those like him – the populists, demagogues and political fantasists. 

To them, I must be a sort of nightmare.  I am the global voice on human rights, universal rights; elected by all governments, and now critic of almost all governments.  I defend and promote the human rights of each individual, everywhere: the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and immigrants; the rights of the LGBTi community; the rights of women and children in all countries; minorities; indigenous persons; people with disabilities, and any and all who are discriminated against, disadvantaged, persecuted or tortured – whether by governments, political movements or by terrorists.

I am a Muslim, who is, confusingly to racists, also white-skinned; whose mother is European and father, Arab.  And I am angry, too.  Because of Mr. Wilder’s lies and half-truths, manipulations and peddling of fear.  You see, twenty years ago I served in the UN peacekeeping force during the Balkan wars – wars so cruel, so devastating, which flowed from this same factory of deceit, bigotry and ethnic nationalism.

Geert Wilders released his grotesque eleven-point manifesto only days ago, and a month ago he spoke along similar lines in Cleveland, in the United States.  I will not repeat what he has said, but there are many who will, and his party is expected to do well in the elections in March.

And yet what Mr. Wilders shares in common with Mr. Trump, Mr. Orban, Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hofer, Mr. Fico, Madame Le Pen, Mr. Farage, he also shares with Da’esh.

All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion – living peacefully in isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence and war.  A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever.  Europe’s past, as we all know, was for centuries anything but that. 

The proposition of recovering a supposedly perfect past is fiction; its merchants are cheats.  Clever cheats.

Populists use half-truths and oversimplification -- the two scalpels of the arch propagandist, and here the internet and social media are a perfect rail for them, by reducing thought into the smallest packages: sound-bites; tweets.  Paint half a picture in the mind of an anxious individual, exposed as they may be to economic hardship and through the media to the horrors of terrorism.  Prop this picture up by some half-truth here and there and allow the natural prejudice of people to fill in the rest.  Add drama, emphasizing it’s all the fault of a clear-cut group, so the speakers lobbing this verbal artillery, and their followers, can feel somehow blameless.

The formula is therefore simple: make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it’s all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing.  Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them, but a horrendous injustice to others.  Inflame and quench, repeat many times over, until anxiety has been hardened into hatred.

Make no mistake, I certainly do not equate the actions of nationalist demagogues with those of Da'esh, which are monstrous, sickening; Da’esh must be brought to justice.  But in its mode of communication, its use of half-truths and oversimplification, the propaganda of Da’esh uses tactics similar to those of the populists.  And both sides of this equation benefit from each other – indeed would not expand in influence without each others' actions.

The humiliating racial and religious prejudice fanned by the likes of Mr. Wilders has become in some countries municipal or even national policy. We hear of accelerating discrimination in workplaces. Children are being shamed and shunned for their ethnic and religious origins – whatever their passports, they are told they are not "really" European, not "really" French, or British, or Hungarian.  Entire communities are being smeared with suspicion of collusion with terrorists.

History has perhaps taught Mr. Wilders and his ilk how effectively xenophobia and bigotry can be weaponized.  Communities will barricade themselves into fearful, hostile camps, with populists like them, and the extremists, as the commandants.  The atmosphere will become thick with hate; at this point it can descend rapidly into colossal violence.

We must pull back from this trajectory.  My friends, are we doing enough to counter this cross-border bonding of demagogues?  A decade ago, Geert Wilder’s manifesto and Cleveland speech would have created a world-wide furore.  Now?  Now, they are met with little more than a shrug, and, outside the Netherlands, his words and pernicious plans were barely noticed.  Are we going to continue to stand by and watch this banalization of bigotry, until it reaches its logical conclusion? 

Ultimately, it is the law that will safeguard our societies – human rights law, binding law which is the distillation of human experience, of generations of human suffering, the screams of the victims of past crimes and hate.  We must guard this law passionately, and be guided by it.

Do not, my friends, be led by the deceiver.  It is only by pursuing the entire truth, and acting wisely, that humanity can ever survive.  So draw the line and speak.  Speak out and up, speak the truth and do so compassionately, speak for your children, for those you care about, for the rights of all, and be sure to say clearly: stop!  We will not be bullied by you the bully, nor fooled by you the deceiver, not again, no more; because we, not you, will steer our collective fate.  And we, not you, will write and sculpt this coming century.  Draw the line!


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein

Watch the video of this speech:

Vánoční přání

Obracím se na vás v tento vánoční čas. V době, kdy je nejdůležitější vidět své blízké, držet při sobě, myslet na druhé a uvědomit si, že z každé tmy se rodí světlo.


Naše společnost je stále více rozdělována. Jsou tu lidé, kteří se snaží námi strachem manipulovat, přebírají praktiky a strategie demagogů, populistů i teroristů. Když jejich slovům podlehneme, popřeme principy, kterých si vážíme. Nenechme se ovládnout strachem, nenechme sebou manipulovat. Buďme lepší a nabídněme pomoc těm, kteří si o ni řeknou.


Do Evropy se hrnou lidé, kteří jsou zasaženi válkou. Tady nejde o země, politiku nebo náboženství. Tady jde o lidskost. Kdo jsme my, abychom odmítli pomoc těm, kteří ji potřebují? Uvědomme si, v těchto bezútěšných časech, že máme obrovské štěstí, když máme co jíst, střechu nad hlavu a děti, které chodí do školy. Jako lidé, velice snadno zapomínáme. Nezapomeňme, že to, co nás v přírodě odlišuje, je schopnost vcítit se do druhých a nezachovat se vždy podle svých pudů, ale rozhodnout se pro to, co je těžké, ale správné. Buďme lidští.



Přeji vám všem, abychom prožili svátky v klidu a pohodě s našimi nejbližšími. Ať vaše srdce zalije mír, pokora a odpuštění.

The impact of Brexit on energetics and climate change policy

Over the last years, the UK has been one of the most active European Union Member States in climate change policy and energy talks and it has often led the way forward. Some policies successfully implemented by the British legislation were later proposed by the European Commission for all the EU Member States to adopt. But on the 23rd of June, the UK voters declared against the membership in the community.

In this article I do not mean to argue if the UK would be better off if remained as a Member State of the European Union. There is no more sense in doing so, the aim is to inspect the impacts of the result of the referendum on energy industry and the climate change talks and to introduce possible scenarios of evolution of energetics and climate policies in the UK. How the decision taken by the British voters has affected energetics and climate change policy in the UK and Europe? What are some possible outcomes of the result of the referendum in these fields in future?

A common point of view after the referendum was that Brexit will not change much in the UK energy policy. After the result, the price of oil slightly decreased, but has regained its value soon. On the 6th of October the WTI has hit the $50 mark for the first time since Brexit. Brent Crude has climbed up to $52 a barrel. Yes, 'price of energy commodities is set by international markets, not by the institutions in Brussels. Moreover, the EU has never had an authority to determine the energy mix’ of each and every country, wrote[1] earlier after the referendum result Nick Butler, the regular correspondent of the Financial Times on energy. The ‘energy union’ is more about the infrastructure and cooperation within states.

According to many, the impacts of Brexit will not be seen until the end of negotiations that will redefine the relationship between the UK and the EU. Such negotiations should take at least two years as the situation is unprecedented – no country has ever left the European Union. By all means, it will take a long time to set up a new relation between the UK and the EU. It is also true, that we shall understand the real impact of Brexit after these talks. But the referendum proved also some immediate impacts.

One of the fastest impacts has fallen on the British currency. The pound sterling has experienced a huge drop since the announcement of the result of the referendum. Economically, Britain has already suffered and will still suffer consequences.

European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is considered a powerful tool to combat the climate change and to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions. But it needs to be efficient. The system is not enough responsive to economic shocks that could affect the price of carbon, which needs to be more or less stable, otherwise companies cannot work with the price of carbon. Uncertainty over time is a nightmare for investors. On the 15th July 2015, the Commission presented a second proposal to reform its ETS.

Following the result of the referendum, British MEP Ian Duncan tendered his resignation as rapporteur of the ETS reforms. This should not make negotiations of so needed reform easier.

What is even more serious is that it is still not clear whether or not the UK will be a part of the EU ETS. Britain is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Europe and the carbon market would not be as efficient without it. Its utilities are among the largest buyers of permits in the EU's ETS, which charges power plants and factories for every tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit,”[2] wrote Reuters. "We are now faced with the real possibility Britain could leave the ETS, which would be hugely bearish, not just on the supply/demand side but for the wider hopes for strong market reforms post 2020," a carbon trader said for Reuters.[3]

Energy industry seems to be most affected by the result of the referendum. Both camps claimed that their position would keep the prices of energy bills lower. But as an independent report commissioned by the British power and gas grid operator National Grid states, “leaving the EU could cost the U.K. up to £500 million per year in the 2020s, as a result of uncertainty over energy and climate investments.”[4] Britain has also become more dependent on energy imports from and through Europe. “In fact, the UK is the only one of Europe’s five biggest energy users to be increasing its reliance on imported energy.”[5] It is simply not possible for the UK not to be part of the European energy market. And Brexit will certainly not make using inter-connectors with the continental Europe cheaper.

Chatham house has published an interesting paper with possible scenarios on post-Brexit energy solutions. The model that follows the case of Norway would involve membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA). This solution would be “the least disruptive, enabling continuity in energy market access, regulatory frameworks and investment; however, both would come at the cost of accepting the vast majority of legislation while relinquishing any say in its creation,”[6] stated the report. Britain would still have to accept the ‘four freedoms’ of the EU Single Market including that of people which has been the most problematic. It is therefore unlikely that the government will choose this option. Economically it would be the most desirable, but politically absolutely not attractive. The Switzerland, the Canada and the WTO models seem more realistic since they offer “the possibility of greater sovereignty in a number of areas, such as buildings and infrastructure standards as well as state aid. None the less, each would entail higher risks, with greater uncertainty over market access, investment and electricity prices. These models would reduce or even eliminate the UK’s contribution to the EU budget, but would also limit or cut off access to EU funding mechanisms.”[7]

Generally speaking, whatever the case, it has stated that all Brexit models would undermine the UK’s influence in international energy. It seems that regardless the chosen scenario, there will be a price to pay.

Some have suggested, that the UK’s vote in June will question EU’s climate change policies that the UK had to implement as a Member State. This might be true. Nevertheless, already since 2008, the UK has implemented the legally binding ‘The Climate Change Act’ on a national level. Furthermore, “the act commits the UK to reducing emissions by at least 80% in 2050 from 1990 levels,”[8] which is the same as the European Commission’s ‘2050 low-carbon economy’ target. The government has also already adopted the “fifth carbon budget” which implies reducing carbon emissions by 57% by 2030 on 1990 levels. That is tougher than the carbon emissions target the UK is signed up to as part of the European Union, which requires a 40% cut by 2030 on 1990 levels.[9] The ‘fifth carbon budget’ is an important intermediary step towards the ‘The Climate Change Act’ target for 2050. “To fulfil our carbon commitments, and just as importantly, to make the most of global market opportunities, we need to put strong and stable Government policy on energy efficiency centre stage. The Carbon Plan later this year must provide businesses with the confidence to invest in low carbon technologies and new business models which can deliver a low carbon built environment,”[10] wrote for Blue and Green Tomorrow, John Alker, Campaigns and Policy Director at UK Green Building Council.

Put simply, even if after the negotiation talks, the UK disengage completely from the EU legislation, it would not affect its own climate policy legislation. Moreover, Amber Rudd, secretary of state for energy and climate change announced after the vote: “We made a clear commitment to acting on climate change in our manifesto last year. That will continue.”[11] On the other hand, what is clear is that Brexit will make it harder for the UK to play its role in acting on climate change.

The preoccupations that the UK’s vote to leave the EU will slow down the process of ratification of the Paris Climate Accord also did not prove justified as on the 5th October, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved.[12] In order to push forward the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the European Commission begun the legislative process needed for its ratification by the Member States even before the referendum.

The ‘fifth carbon budget’ will certainly not be easy to fulfil. “It will oblige the UK to decarbonise its existing electricity output not only very substantially but also much more quickly.”[13] That also might be of the main reason why Theresa May finally moved on the long postponed decision for the Hinkley Point.

Energy security was at the centre of the Brexit energy debate. Increasing imports from abroad raises more of such questions, with slightly more than 50%[14] gas imports and still some coal imports from Russia. The British are aware of the issue and they try at least avoid putting more at risk its energy security. It was last year when “the UK itself discouraged Russian investors who wanted to trade into North Sea oil and gas assets. The legality of the issue was never tested because the investment plans were withdrawn but the result was important because of the signal it sent,”[15] wrote for the Financial Times Nick Butler on the 3rd October.

The new nuclear power project near Somerset, with the major investor EDF, might be very expensive, “it would be selling power at a guaranteed price of more than twice the present wholesale level. What’s more, that deal will run, indexed, for a full 35 years,”[16] but it still offers more energy security. With increasing concerns about the issue, it will be interesting to observe what will become with the still uncertain ‘Chinese’ project in Bradwell, Essex.

For many, an energy security argument is the reason why the UK should reconsider the possibility of exploiting its shale gas reserves, especially after the arrival of the first shale gas shipment of the US shale gas. Advocates of fracking have accused British and Scottish politicians of hypocrisy, “for relying on US shale gas supplies to keep Grangemouth [a mature oil refinery complex, author’s note] open while blocking local exploration.”[17]

By all means, Brexit has raised energy security questions that will need to be answered.














[13] Financial Times, Energy security focus turns national – Nick Butler, 3/10/2016


[15] Financial Times, Evolutionary strategy needed for UK’s climate policy – Jonathan Ford, 9/10/2016

[16] Financial Times, Evolutionary strategy needed for UK’s climate policy – Jonathan Ford, 9/10/2016

[17] Financial Times, First US Shale gas arrives in Britain as fracking debate reignites – Mure Dickie and Andrew Ward, 27/09/2016

Holokaust a jiné genocidy

Dne 13. ledna 2016 jsem se zúčastnil přednášky v knihovně Václava Havla, která se jmenovala „Holokaust a jiné genocidy“. V průběhu přednášky jsem zjistil, že přednáška je věnována hlavně stejnojmenné knize, která byla čerstvě vydána. Celý projekt byl finančně podpořen českým podnikatelem arménského původu.

Na akci jsem se vydal hlavně proto, že jsem si chtěl oživit a doplnit znalosti, které jsem zatím o genocidách měl, popř. zúčastnit se nějaké zajímavé debaty. Celá přednáška probíhala v klidu. Viděli jsme výpovědi očitých svědků genocidy ve Rwandě, holodomoru na Ukrajině nebo vraždění v Arménii. Na konci byl prostor i pro publikum. Zvedl jistý muž v kravatě, který seděl přede mnou.

Nejdříve se představil jako turecký velvyslanec v České republice. Mluvil anglicky, klidně a srozumitelně. Překlad zajišťoval pán, který přednášku vedl. Velvyslanec předem oznámil, že je možné, že jeho vystoupení bude pro mnohé nepříjemné nebo emotivní, což se záhy potvrdilo.

Turecký velvyslanec nabídl jiný pohled na věc, než který byl na přednášce prezentován. Omluvil se za smrt mnoha Arménů. Také řekl, že si ale nemyslí, že v Arménii šlo o genocidu a uvedl pro to důvody. Nebudu je tu vyjmenovávat, jde mi o něco jiného. Je pravda, že velvyslanec mluvil relativně dlouho, asi 10 minut. Ale jistě to nebylo déle než arménský velvyslanec o chvíli před ním, který ve zkratce neřekl vůbec nic. Ale o to mi také nejde.

Po monologu tohoto pána se dav začal probouzet. Začaly se objevovat vulgární výkřiky. I arménské publikum se probudilo, hodně lidé na něj začalo řvát a nadávat. Organizátorům se debata naprosto vymkla z rukou, i když nevím, jestli tuto vlnu emocí vůbec šlo nějak zastavit. Evidentně neměli tušení, že se tam někdo takový objeví. Pán, který vedl debatu to poté ukončil s tím, že již není čas a přešlo se opět k přednášce. Zakončení se mi ale z jeho strany také úplně nelíbilo. Nebylo to ve stylu: „Přečtěte si tuto knížku, zjistěte si o tématu sami více, zajímejte se a udělejte si názor sami“, jako spíše: „tady v této knize je pravda, tak si ji kupte a přečtěte“. Co mne ale naprosto vyvedlo v údiv byl další vývoj. Když už se zdálo, že vše skončí v relativním klidu, přišel jistý farář či kdo to byl a vzal si mikrofon, aby knihu „pokřtil“. Jenže místo klidných slov, například o odpuštění, kterému je křesťanství velmi blízké se tento muž se opět obrátil na tureckého diplomata a začal na něj ječet. Řval na něj, co si to vůbec dovoluje přijít na takovouto akci a prezentovat tam svůj názor. Řval na něj, ať se stydí a ať raději mlčí. Pak zase řval, že ne my ho budeme soudit, ale Bůh. Zastupitel křesťanské církve před asi 100 lidmi v sále – skvělý příklad pro všechny. Připadá mi to nepřípustné, takovýto člověk by neměl dělat toto „zaměstnání“. Nakonec nedal ani příležitost Turkovi odpovědět a v této atmosféře začal knihu „křtít“. Na konci se ještě objevila na velvyslance otázka z publika. Na otázku, proč byly vražděny také ženy a děti nebyl úplně schopen odpovědět.

Po ukončení přednášky jsem se ještě zastavil prohodit s velvyslancem pár slov. Sám jsem si na situaci v průběhu dělal vlastní názor a chtěl jsem se ho zeptat, proč na přednášku vůbec přišel. Zkusil jsem se vcítit do jeho postavení a jako velvyslanec by mi nepřipadalo moudré jít na takovou přednášku. Jistě tím otevřel mnoho ran. Zareagoval defenzivně, ale nakonec mi byl schopen své činění vysvětlit. Řekl, že to bylo z jeho čistého přesvědčení. Cítí se povinen bránit svůj národ, který je obviněn z genocidy, i když podle jeho mínění k ničemu takovému nedošlo. Také řekl, že mu to stálo zato i proto, že by mu stačilo, kdyby si i jeden student vyhledal o tématu víc, nebo se nad tím zamyslel i z druhé strany, což jsem pochopil. Nicméně nevím, jestli bych na jeho místě udělal to samé.

Nemyslím si, že je důležité, zda šlo o genocidu nebo ne. Umřelo spousta lidí. Buď chtěli Turci vyvraždit Arménský národ nebo nechtěli. To ale nic nezmění. Nikomu takovéto slovíčkaření život nevrátí. Spíš naopak. Fakt, že Turecko není schopné řádné omluvy Arménii za tisíce obětí a bazíruje na tom, že o genocidu nešlo mávajíce rozhodnutím European Court of Justice, který vyvrátil, že by o genocidu šlo všem jen ubližuje. Stejně jako to, že Arménie není schopná odpuštění.

Celá akce také ukázala důležitost umění vést kultivovanou debatu. Ať už je pravda jakákoliv, nemůžeme začít řvát na člověka, který jen prezentuje svůj názor. Ať to bolí jakkoliv, je důležité reagovat klidně. Pokud naše hodnoty jsou svoboda slova, kdy každý může říct svůj názor, nemůžeme někoho umlčovat pouze proto, že říká něco jiného. Pravda nevyjde najevo tím, že na toho člověka začneme řvát, ale tím, že v klidu sdělíme náš pohled na věc. Na manipulaci se většinou odpovídá manipulací. Fakt, že ani představitel církve není schopen dát dobrý příklad je smutné.


Měli bychom si stále připomínat důležitost kultivované diskuze. Zdá se mi, že stále méně a méně lidí je schopno v klidu diskutovat. Chtějme být vzdělaní, zajímejme se o věci a dělejme si na věci vlastní názor. Vyslechněme si názor jedné i druhé strany, obě na to mají právo a poté se rozhodněme, na kterou stranu se přikloníme.