by Felicity Arbuthnot
September 24, 2015
All victims of human rights abuses
should be able to look to the
Human Rights Council
as a forum and a springboard for action.
12 March 2007,
Opening of the 4th
Human Rights Council Session.
Article 55 of United Nations Charter includes:
"Universal respect for and
observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,
without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion."
In diametrical opposition to these fine
founding aspirations, the UN has appointed Saudi Arabia's envoy to
the United Nations Human Rights Council to head (or should that be
"behead") an influential human rights panel.
The appointment was
seemingly made in June, but only came to light on 17th September,
due to documents obtained by UN Watch. (1)
…Mr Faisal Bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador at the UN in
Geneva, was elected as Chair of a panel of independent experts on
the UN Human Rights Council.
As head of a five-strong group of diplomats, the influential role
would give Mr Trad the power to select applicants from around the
world for scores of expert roles in countries where the UN has a
mandate on human rights.
Such experts are often described as the "crown jewels" of the HRC,
according to UN Watch.
The "crown jewels" have been handed to a country with one of the
worst human rights records in the world. Saudi Arabia will head a
Consultative Group of five Ambassadors empowered to select
applicants globally for more than seventy seven positions to deal
with human rights violations and mandates.
In a spectacular new low for even a UN whose former Secretary
General, Kofi Annan, took eighteen months to admit publicly that the
2003 invasion of, bombardment and near destruction of Iraq was
illegal, UN Watch points out that the UN has chosen:
"a country that
has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key
Human Rights panel…" (2)
In May, just prior to the appointment, the Saudi government
advertised for eight extra executioners to:
"…carry out an
increasing number of death sentences, which are usually beheadings,
carried out in public". (3)
"no special qualifications are needed."
The main function
would be executing, but job description:
"also involves performing
The advert was posted on the website of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Ministry of the Civil Service.
By 15th June this year executions reached one hundred,
last year's tally and putting (the country) on course for a new
record" according to The Independent (15th June.)
The paper adds that the Kingdom is set
to beat it's own grisly, primitive record of one hundred and ninety
two executions in 1995.
The paper notes that:
"…the rise in executions can be
directly linked to the new King Salman and his
recently-appointed inner circle…"
In August 2014, Human Rights Watch
reported nineteen executions in seventeen days - including one for
"sorcery." Adultery and apostasy can also be punished by death.
Ban Ki-moon and King Salman
In a supreme irony, on the death of
King Salman's head chopping
predecessor, Salman's half bother King Abdullah in January (still
current decapitation record holder) UK Prime Minister David Cameron
ordered flags flown at half mast, including at the Houses of
Parliament and Westminster Abbey, leading one MP to question:
"On the day that flags at Whitehall
are flying at half-mast for King Abdullah, how many public
executions will there be?"
Cameron apparently had not read his own
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report citing Saudi as "a country of
Reacting to a swathe of criticism, a spokesperson for Westminster
"For us not to fly at half-mast
would be to make a noticeably aggressive comment on the death of
the King of a country to which the UK is allied in the fight
against Islamic terrorism."
The Abbey's representative appears to
have been either breathtakingly ignorant or stunningly uninformed.
In December 2009 in a US Embassy cable (4) the
then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton wrote that:
While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat
of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge
to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating
from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.
…donors in Saudi Arabia constitute
the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups
worldwide… engagement is needed to… encourage the Saudi
government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from
Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists
At home women are forbidden:
"from obtaining a passport,
marrying, traveling, accessing higher education without the
approval of a male guardian."
(HRW Report, 2014)
Saudi is also of course, the only
country in the world where women are forbidden to drive.
The country is currently preparing to behead twenty one year old Ali
Mohammed al-Nimr. He was arrested aged seventeen for participating
in anti-government protests and possessing firearms - the latter
charge has been consistently denied. Human rights groups are
appalled at the sentence and the flimsy case against him, but
pointing out that neither "factors are unusual in today's Saudi
Following the beheading, al-Nimr's headless body will be allegedly
"on to a crucifix for public
What was that mantra issued unceasingly
from US and UK government Departments in justification for
blitzkriegs, invasions and slaughters in countries who "kill their
Numerous Reports cite torture as being widespread, despite Saudi
having subscribed to the UN Convention Against Torture.
There are protests at Saudi embassies across the world highlighting
the case of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to a thousand lashes -
fifty lashes a week after Friday prayers - and ten years in prison
for blogging about free speech.
Since March, Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen - with no UN
mandate - destroying schools, hospitals, homes, a hotel, public
buildings, an Internally Displaced Persons camp, historical jewels,
"a trail of civilian death and
destruction" which may have amounted to war crimes, according to
"Unlawful airstrikes" have failed to
distinguish between military targets and civilian objects.
"Nowhere safe for civilians", states
"Further, the conflict… has killed close to 4,000 people, half
of them civilians including hundreds of children, and displaced
over one million since 25 March 2015."
There has been:
"…a flagrant disregard for
civilian lives and fundamental principles of international
humanitarian law (killing and injuring) hundreds of civilians
not involved in the conflict, many of them children and women,
in unlawful (disproportionate and indiscriminate) ground and air
It is alleged that US-supplied cluster
bombs have also been used.
One hundred and seventeen States have
joined the Convention to ban these lethal, indiscriminate munitions
since December 2008. Saudi Arabia, of course, is not amongst them.
Saudi was also one of the countries which bombed Iraq in 2003, an
action now widely accepted as illegal.
It is perhaps indicative of
their closeness to the US that the bombardment of Yemen is
mirror-named from the Pentagon Silly Titles for Killing People
lexicon: "Operation Decisive Storm."
Iraq 1991 was of course:
"Operation Desert Storm"?
Saudi is also ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2015
Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. All in all Saudi
leading the Human Rights Council at the UN is straight out of
another of George Orwell's most nightmarish political fantasies.
Oh, and of course we are told that nineteen of the hijackers of the
hit the World Trade Centre' were Saudis - for which
swathes of Afghanistan and region, Middle East and North Africa are
still paying the bloodiest, genocidal price for the "War on Terror"
- whilst Saudi's representatives stroll in to the sunlight of the UN
Human Rights body.
On the UN Human Right's Council's website is stated:
"The Office of
the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
represents the world's commitment to universal ideals of human
dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community
to promote and protect all human rights."
Way to go, folks...