UN rights boss blasts Katie Hopkins
Published 24/04/2015 | 14:21
Controversial newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins has been blasted by the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights after she likened migrants to cockroaches.
Jordanian Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the reality television star had used language in her Sun column similar to that used by newspapers and radio stations in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide that led to hundreds of thousands of people being slaughtered.
He urged authorities in the UK to use the law to clamp down on "vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press", adding : "The Nazi media described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches. This type of language is clearly inflammatory and unacceptable, especially in a national newspaper.
"The Sun's editors took an editorial decision to publish this article, and - if it is found in breach of the law - should be held responsible along with the author."
Hopkins wrote in the Sun last week that the UK should use gunships to send migrant boats home, adding: "Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit 'Bob Geldof's Ethiopia circa 1984', but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb."
The former Apprentice and Celebrity Big Brother star used her column in the newspaper today to address her previous remarks, saying it had been a "cautionary tale".
She wrote: "I am reminded of the power of the pen. One should be brave enough to speak out - but aware of the dangers which lurk in the depths of our vocabulary.
"No one wants to see images of children drowned at sea, no matter what their journey or their destination. The next time you are thinking of clicking on a petition, don't be angry about words.
"Accept our opinions differ. Channel your outrage at the regimes causing people to flee. And be part of the solution."
A Sun spokesman said she and the paper would not be commenting further.
An online petition urging the Sun to remove Hopkins as a columnist has received almost 284,000 signatures.
Mr Al Hussain did not limit himself to attacking Hopkins, but aimed a broadside at the popular press in general, adding: "This vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press has continued unchallenged under the law for far too long.
"I am an unswerving advocate of freedom of expression, which is guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but it is not absolute. Article 20 of the same Covenant says 'Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law'."
He also urged European countries to tackle racism and xenophobia which "under the guise of freedom of expression, are being allowed to feed a vicious cycle of vilification, intolerance and politicisation of migrants, as well as of marginalised European minorities such as the Roma".
He added: "While migration and refugee issues are completely valid topics for public debate, it is imperative that migration policy decisions that affect people's lives and fundamental human rights should be made on the basis of fact - not fiction, exaggeration or blatant xenophobia.
"History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonising foreigners and minorities, and it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used in a variety of countries, simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers."
An Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) spokesman said it had received more than 300 complaints about Hopkins' original article.
He said: " Ipso is investigating whether the piece breaches the Editors' Code and will publish its findings in due course. While this process continues, it would not be right to provide a detailed response on the investigation or the broader issues it raises."