Saudi Arabia appointed to chair UN Human Rights Council

The United Nations report on September 17 confirmed that Saudi Arabia ambassador Faisal bin Hassan Trad has been appointed as the chair of the Human Rights Council (HRC), despite the country having “arguably the worst record in the world” on freedoms for women, minorities and religion.

The influential role will give 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 referred to as the ‘crown jewels’ of the HRC.

Critics, including Ensaf Haidar, the wife of the imprisoned pro-democracy Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, condemned the appointment as “scandalous”, saying it meant that “oil continues to trump basic human rights principles”.


saudi arabia UNO
saudi arabia UNO



Since Badawi was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, Haidar has been leading an international campaign to free her husband. On Sunday, Haidar criticized Facebook the election of the Saudi ambassador as the chair of the UN human rights panel, saying the decisions is “like green light to start flogging Raif Badawi again!”


Trad’s selection as a chair of the panel was first reported on September 20 by UN Watch, the Geneva-based NGO watchdog. It claimed that the appointment of Trad was made in June, but remained unreported until now. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer expressed concern that the Saudis may have been handed the position in a “backroom deal”, in exchange for withdrawing their controversial bid to lead 47-nation council following international condemnation of kingdom’s human rights record.

Neuer said:

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. Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.

The HRC, the UN body responsible for strengthening, promoting and protecting human rights around the world, has long been the subject of criticism for granting membership to countries with dubious human rights records, including Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela among its elected members.

The HRC, the members of which are elected in competitive elections, believes that no country has perfect human rights records, and therefore, tests its members on the demonstrated willingness to provide redress and make improvements. However, the UN General Assembly has the right to suspend the rights and privileges of any member to the panel that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations.

UN Watch condemned the appointment, saying:

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, like human rights activist Raif Badawi.

UN Watch called US Ambassador to the UN Samatha Power and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to condemn the appointment and work to reverse it.










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