UN Watch, a nonprofit watchdog group, has called upon Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to not only condemn the appointment of a Saudi Arabian as head of the UN Human Rights Council, but to also work to reverse it. The UN has chosen Saudi Arabia to lead a 5-member Consultative Group of ambassadors that selects applicants from around the world for more than 77 positions dealing with various human rights issues. Said Hillel Neuer, the leader of UN Watch, “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.”
Moreover, said Neuer, “It is 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.” Neuer added, “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.
Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes by a Saudi court for the alleged crime of apostasy from Islam. This came despite his assurances that he remains a faithful Muslim. He was convicted on the basis of liking a Facebook page for Arab Christians. Despite worldwide condemnation, Saudi Arabia may now impose the death penalty via crucifixion for Badawi.
Regarding the oil kingdom’s presence on the U.N. panel, Neuer wrote “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 its elected members.”
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, called the appointment “a green light to start flogging Raif Badawi again!”
Saudi Ambassador Faisal Trad has been selected to chair the Consultative Group for the 30th session of the council, which opened on September 20 and continues for two weeks. While Trad was actually selected in June of this year, the U.N. kept the appointment quiet until now.
Neuer is concerned that Ambassador Trad may have been appointed as part of a secret deal in which Saudi Arabia dropped its demand this year to preside over the entire 47-nation human rights council.
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