Last week, the United Nations appointed Saudi Arabia as leader of the international body’s symbolically influential human rights’ panel. Unfortunately, this is not parody or satire; one of the world’s leading human rights abusers is now commissioned to head the UN’s Human Rights Council.
UNHRC members, which include China, Russia, and Qatar, proudly welcomed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, as their gloriously ordained chair of the group’s Consultative Group, the organization responsible for selecting experts to offer insight on human rights abuses worldwide. The farce of this appointment insults the very name of the council, legitimizing one of the worst human rights violators of the modern era.
According to rights’ groups, Saudi Arabia executed around 90 people in 2014, a figure just short of China and Iran. This year alone, Human Rights Watch reports that the Saudi jurists have sanctioned the execution of over 100 people. Nearly half of the sentences were carried out for petty crimes, such as drug offenses. With a decades-long pattern of abuse, Saudi Arabia is the worst offender in a region rife with offense; Amnesty International condemned the country as “one of the most prolific executioners in the world,” citing nearly 2,200 executions from 1985 to 2015.
With the House of Saud, and its oppressive theocratic regime, ventriloquizing the marionette movements of Trad and other OPEC friendly ambassadors, victims of rights abuses across the globe, and their families, are left even more hopeless than before. “Petro dollars have trumped human rights,” asserted UN Watch director Hillel Neuer.
The watchdog calls the appointment “scandalous,” referencing Raif Badawi, the jailed Saudi Blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for the alleged crime of “apostasy” and “insulting Islam” by his country’s highest courts. Badawi deeply offended Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist clerics with the slight of a keyboard stroke, espousing free thought, liberalism and hints of atheism on his blog entitled “Free Saudi Liberals.” Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who has galvanized international support to free her husband’s unjust detainment, is outraged by the UNHRC’s pantomime.
Saudi Arabia’s appointment gives “a green light to start flogging [Badawi again],” cried Haidar. “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 of dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons,” added Neuer.
In one fell swoop, the United Nations, self-proclaimed gatekeeper of moral fortitude, torched their own olive-branch emblazoned flag and embraced the guillotine. The UN human rights panel’s website declares self-righteously, “As the principal United Nations office mandated to promote and protect human rights for all, OHCHR leads global human rights efforts speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide.”
Each one of those words is an insult hurled at the blood-soaked, unrecognizable faces of Saudi Arabia’s victims. Built on a blueprint of tragic irony, the UNHRC is not just an inept, isolated institution, but a disease of moral decay metastasizing through the beating heart of human dignity.