September 19, 2018 / 3:52 PM / 3 months ago

Hungarian foreign minister accuses U.N. rights experts of spreading lies

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto addresses the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Hungary’s foreign minister lashed out at what he called “biased, pro-migration” U.N. human rights experts on Wednesday, accusing them of spreading lies about his country and saying Budapest had the right to keep out illegal migrants.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is one of the strongest opponents of immigration into the European Union. It has built a fence along Hungary’s southern borders and made it very difficult for refugees to apply for asylum.

A U.N. rights watchdog, which reviewed Hungary’s record, urged the government in April to crack down on hate speech by politicians against Roma, Muslims and other minorities, and to repeal a law allowing migrants to be deported without a chance to seek asylum.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, in an angry and apparently improvised speech on Wednesday, appeared to take aim at the panel composed of 18 independent experts, saying “they should not be independent from the truth”.

“Recently, unfortunately, some U.N. officials started to spread lies against and about my country,” he told the U.N. Human Rights Council, where Hungary is currently among the 47 member states of the Geneva forum.

Szijjarto, who headed Hungary’s delegation to the review by the separate watchdog in March-April, noted that Orban’s conservative Fidesz party had subsequently won re-election for a third consecutive term with a large majority.

“U.N. officials would like to force on us impossible things, to allow illegal migrants to enter our country. They say that migration is a fundamental human right, which is a lie,” he said.

John Fisher, Geneva director of the New York-based activist group Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “#Hungary unhinged. Foreign Minister embarrasses himself and his country by launching anti-migrant, anti-NGO, anti-#UN tirade.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones

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