Saudi UN Human Rights Panel Appointment Shows Money, Politics Trump Justice

© REUTERS / Ahmad MasoodA member of Saudi security forces is seen during a mock encounter scene during a military parade in preparation for the annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca September 17, 2015
A member of Saudi security forces is seen during a mock encounter scene during a military parade in preparation for the annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca September 17, 2015 - Sputnik International
Saudi Arabia's appointment to chair the Consultative Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council is "scandalous," and demonstrates that money and politics trump human rights in the international arena, according to human rights NGO UN Watch.

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In commentary published Sunday, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer voiced his outrage over the international body's decision to appoint Saudi UN Ambassador Faisal bin Hassan Trad to chair the UNHRC's Consultative Group, responsible for the selection of dozens of experts charged with addressing human rights cases in countries around the world.

Neuer emphasized that the decision to appoint an official from a country with "arguably the worst record in the world" when it comes to freedoms for women, minorities and religion to the coveted post demonstrates that "petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights." 

The head of the Geneva-based NGO watchdog added that it is simply "scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS" to head the panel, adding that the decision will undermine the Council's legitimacy. "The world body only undermines their legitimacy by picking a fundamentalist theocracy that oppresses women and minorities to preside over the experts' appointment."

"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," Neuer said.

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Neuer explained that the decision to appoint Trad had actually been made in June, but remained unpublicized before his organization obtained official documents confirming it. He suggested that the appointment may have come down to a "backroom deal" after Riyadh made a bid to head the Council itself. 

The rights activist also criticized US and EU officials for their silence, calling on them to publically condemn the appointment and to work to reverse it, and recalling their refusal "to utter a word of protest" about the Saudis' election to the HRC itself in 2013. 

Neuer's comments were echoed by Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for 'cybercrime' and 'insulting Islam'. Commenting on Trad's appointment to the panel, Haidar lamented that the appointment is "like a green light to start flogging Raif Badawi again!"

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia over its public beheadings and floggings, restrictions on freedom of expression and religion, as well as its systemic discrimination of women.

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Last month, Amnesty International calculated that at least 102 persons had been executed in the first six months of 2015 alone, most by beheading. Amnesty Middle East and North Africa researcher Sevag Kechichian told Sputnik that this puts Saudi Arabia in the world's top five in terms of the number of executions, adding that the country's per capita figures, which have skyrocketed in the past year, are "horrendous." Kechichian also condemned the "barbaric manner" in which some of the executions are carried out, recently including the stringing of bodies from helicopters and flying them around for public display.

Recently, Ali Mohammed Nimr, a protester arrested during Shiite riots in the province of Qatif in 2012, has been sentenced to "death by crucifixion," losing his final appeal. Rights activists have said that the young man, a minor upon his arrest, has already faced torture, been denied access to lawyers, and forced to sign a confession under duress. 

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