GENEVA, September 20, 2015 – U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini should condemn and work to reverse the appointment of Saudi Arabia as chair of a key UN Human Rights Council panel, with the power to select top officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide, said UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization based in Geneva.

“It’s scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.”

“Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi,” Neuer added.

“This UN appointment is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief, and underscores the credibility deficit of a human rights council that already counts Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela among itselected members.”

According to UNHRC documents obtained by UN Watch, Saudi Arabia was chosen to head a 5-member group of ambassadors, known as the Consultative Group, which has the power to select applicants from around the world for more than 77 positions dealing with country-specific and thematic human rights mandates.

“The UN often describes these experts as the ‘crown jewels’ of its Human Rights Council, yet the world body only undermines their legitimacy by picking a fundamentalist theocracy that oppresses women and minorities to preside over the experts’ appointment.”

Saudi Arabia Re-elected to Key Panel

A UN report dated September 17th reports that Faisal Trad, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the UNHRC, was selected to chair the panel for appointments to be made in the current 30th session of the council, which opened on Monday and will last for another two weeks. The Saudi ambassador was first elected to the post ahead of the recent June 2015 session, yet Geneva diplomats chose to keep silent and that initial election went unreported until now.

Ensaf wife of Raif Badawi and Hillel

Raif Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar receiving the 2015 Geneva Summit
Courage Award on behalf of her husband, a political prisoner in
Saudi Arabia, delivered to her home in Sherbrooke, Quebec,
by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, on
July 6, 2015.

Deal for Dropping Saudi Presidency Bid?

Neuer expressed concern that the Saudis may have been handed the position in a backroom deal, in exchange for dropping the regime’s controversial bid to become president of the entire 47-nation council. “I urge Ambassador Power and High Commissioner Mogherini to confirm that this is not the case,” he said.

Riyadh pulled out from seeking the council presidency in June following UN Watch’s protest campaign, covered in newspapers worldwide.

U.S. & EU Were Silent When Saudi Arabia Was Elected to UNHRC in 2013

“We cannot forget that the U.S. and the EU refused to utter a word of protest when we urged them, together with Saudi dissidents, to oppose the monarchy’s election in 2013. It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.”

“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons, like human rights activist Raif Badawi.

 

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