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Oct 16, 2014 5:54 AM

UN rights chief: Ebola, extremists 'twin plagues'

The Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein drew comparisons between the Ebola outbreak and the Islamic State group Thursday, labeling them "twin plagues" upon the world that were allowed to gain strength because of widespread neglect and misunderstanding.

At his first news conference since becoming the U.N.'s top human rights official last month, Zeid focused on the "two monumental crises" that he said would inevitably cost nations many billions to overcome.

"The twin plagues of Ebola and ISIL," he told reporters, using an acronym for the group, "both fomented quietly, neglected by a world that knew they existed but misread their terrible potential before exploding into the global consciousness during the latter months of 2014."

Zeid said the U.N. human rights office has begun drawing up guidelines for Ebola-hit nations to follow if they impose health quarantines on people, because such efforts can easily violate a wide range of human rights if imposed and enforced unjustly.

Along the border of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic fighters who are seizing ground represent "a diabolical, potentially genocidal movement" that is the product of "a perverse and lethal marriage of a new form of nihilism with the digital age," he said.

The veteran diplomat and prince from Jordan also urged Iraq to join The Hague-based International Criminal Court and to take the "immediate step" of accepting its jurisdiction to allow for the prosecution of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity that a U.N. Human Rights Council-appointed mission is investigating.

Syria has signed the treaty establishing the ICC, but has not ratified it.

Zeid said before the end of the year his office will issue an updated tally of deaths from Syria's civil war that "will be well over 200,000." The last count, in August, put the toll at more than 190,000.


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