The United Nations has defended far-left extremist group Antifa and other similar organizations, telling the United States that its experts were profoundly concerned over U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s characterization of Antifa members as “domestic terrorists.”
The United Nations Office in Geneva on Friday shared an image of Antifa’s flag on its official Twitter account, saying that its experts “express profound concern over a recent statement by the U.S. Attorney-General describing #Antifa and other anti-fascist activists as domestic terrorists.”
The office further went on to say such a description “undermines the rights” of Antifa and other anti-fascists groups’ members “to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly” in the United States.
The statement from the UN follows Barr’s remarks about Antifa and other extremist organization’s alleged involvement in the violent rioting observed during the recent George Floyd protests. The death of Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police, prompted nationwide protests calling for changes in policing practices.
Federal authorities, including Barr, have attributed the violent activity to extremist organizations such as Antifa. The attorney general previously said in a statement on May 31 that the alleged violence “carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”
Previously, he said that the DOJ has evidence that Antifa and other similar groups instigated the violent activity, and he said that federal authorities are conducting comprehensive investigations into certain individuals with ties to the extremist group.
“We have some investigations underway and very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to Antifa,” Barr said during an interview with Fox News on June 8. “But in the … initial phase of identifying people and arresting them, they were arrested for crimes that don’t require us to identify a particular group or don’t necessitate that.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump announced on May 31 that his administration would designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.
One of the UN experts who expressed concern was Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. Ní Aoláin expressed regret over the U.S. response to the protests in a separate statement.
“International human rights law protects the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly,” Ní Aoláin said. “It is regrettable that the United States has chosen to respond to the protests in a manner that undermines these fundamental rights.”
She added that “the loose use of terrorism rhetoric undermines legitimate protests and dampens freedom of expression in the United States, which has been a hallmark of U.S. constitutional values, and a beacon far beyond its shores.”
The origins of the group Antifa can be traced back to Germany’s “anti-fascist” movement, which was part of the Soviet Union’s front operations to incite a communist revolution in the European country. In the United States, the group claims that its members are fighting fascism, but rarely do they confront actual fascists. Instead, their members, who are made up of communists, socialists, and other hard-left radicals, label parties and individuals who don’t align with their ideology as “fascists” to justify their use of violence against them.
The group has frequently made headlines for its violent attacks on opposing groups, particularly Trump supporters, whom they have branded as “fascists.”
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.