The United Nations has been criticised for handing Saudi Arabia a key position on the UN's human rights council - despite the fact that the country has complete disregard, and even contempt to the issue of human rights in its own territory.
Saudi Arabia has arguably one of the worst records in the world when it comes to religious freedom, women’s rights, minorities and dissidents rights.
Despite the outcry, Saudi Arabia’s allies stood by them. A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the U.S. “would welcome” Saudi Arabia’s appointment to the panel. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the position was only “procedural” and would not have a significant bearing on the U.N.’s human rights work.
“It is scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.”
Yet Saudi Arabia has already brought its influence to bear on the council. In late September, Saudi pressure squashed a draft Human Rights Council resolution by the Netherlands to establish an international inquiry into human rights violations in Yemen’s war.
Saudi Arabia leads a coalition conducting airstrikes and providing group support to Yemeni troops and militias fighting Houthi rebels in the country. Human rights groups have documented the use of child soldiers, banned cluster munitions and high civilian casualties throughout the nine-month war. But the Council settled on a vague resolution with no international inquiry after Saudi resistance.