Saudi Arabia has decided to withdraw its bid to head the UN Human Rights Council after an outcry from human rights advocacy groups, a Swiss daily reported.
The French-language daily Tribune de Genève reported that Riyadh had dropped its candidacy to lead the UNHRC as a representative of Asia.
The Geneva-based group UN Watch has been one of several NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, to criticize Saudi involvement in the UN’s top rights body since it was elected to the council in 2013.
Saudi Arabia is routinely accused of human rights violations for executions, violations of religious freedom and restrictions on free expression.
The US State Department lists the kingdom as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.”
Riyadh has recently come under criticism for sentencing blogger Raid Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” online.
“This is good news,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a press release. “However, the fundamentalist Saudi monarchy — a regime beheading more people than ever before — still retains their power as a full voting member of the council.”
UN Watch had reported last month that the Saudis were considering the top spot on the council for 2016.
The report regarding its decision to back out of the UNHRC leadership race comes a week after Saudi Arabia hosted a conference on religious freedom sponsored by the council.