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Saudi Arabia Wants to Head UN Human Rights Council; Sparks Uproar

Saudi Arabia national flag.Reuters

By Johnlee Varghese
Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which according to activist groups has one of the highest human rights violation record, has sparked major outrage after it emerged that the oil-rich nation is lobbying for the post of President of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.

The rights groups have opposed the move stating that electing Saudi Arabia would be the  "final nail in the coffin for the credibility" of the UNHRC -- an inter-governmental organisation tasked with the responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights around the globe.

KSA, on the other hand, has one of the poorest records on human rights. Recently forced by its soaring execution rates, Saudi officials even put out a job circular calling for "experienced swordsmen" to apply for the post of executioners, which had eight vacancies.

Earlier last week, reports emerged that Saudi Arabia, an elected member of the 47-nation Human Rights Council, is actively lobbying for the post of UNHRC head. The kingdom reportedly will bid for the 2016 UNHRC presidency.

Germany currently holds the presidency, but next year the position will be open.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group in a statement criticised the move and said that it would be "the final nail in the coffin for the credibility of a body that already counts dictatorships like China, Cuba and Russia as members, and whose top adviser is co-founder of the Muammar Gaddafi Human Rights Prize".

"We urge US Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini to denounce this despicable act of cynicism by a regime that beheads people in the town square, systematically oppresses women, Christians, and gays, and jails innocent bloggers like Raif Badawi for the crime of challenging the rulers' radical brand of Wahabbist Islam," Neuer added.

"Electing Saudi Arabia as the world's judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac as the town fire chief," The Independent reported quoting Neuer.

As of now, 85 people in total have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, 88 people were executed.

In recent months, the country was widely criticised for sentencing blogger Raid Badawi to 10 years in prison with 1,000 lashes for publishing essays that criticised the government.


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