The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United Nations was re-selected to chair an influential panel on the Human Rights Council, sparking the ire of human rights activists across the world, a UN watchdog group revealed Sunday.
Faisal bin Hassan Trad was first appointed to head the five-member group of ambassadors — known as the Consultative Group — in June this year. The UN ambassadors of Greece, Algeria, Chile and Lithuania make up the rest of the panel, which is charged with selecting applicants from around the world to fill more than 75 positions “with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective,” according to a UN document.
UN Watch, an independent Geneva-based NGO, claims Trad’s selection to chair the panel went intentionally unreported by UN diplomats.
Riyadh had initially campaigned to head the UN Human Rights Council altogether, but dropped that bid in June.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said in a statement that it was “scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS [the Islamic State] to be head of a key human rights panel. 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, in reference to the Saudi liberal activist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, despite international outrage over his case.
Badawi, a 31-year-old father, cofounded the Saudi Liberal Network Internet discussion group. He was arrested in June 2012 under cyber-crime provisions, and a judge ordered the website to be closed after it criticized Saudi Arabia’s notorious religious police.
The Saudi Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Badawi’s sentence in January is final and cannot be overturned without a royal pardon.
Saudi Arabia consistently ranks among “the worst of the worst” on Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights.