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Saudi Arabia “defends” Human Rights on Monday, beheads a man on Thursday

The country chairs a consultative panel in the UN Council on Human Rights. Today, Ali Mohammed Al-Nimhr, 21 years old, was to be beheaded and crucified.

AUTHOR Joëlle Philippe BRUSSELS 24 SEPTEMBER 2015 12:32 h GMT+1
saudi ara Faisal Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Geneva, has been elected Chair of the UN Human Rights Council panel that appoints independent experts. Right: Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. / UN Watch

A Saudi Arabian ambassador was appointed last January in a 5-member panel to interview and short-list experts that would then examine Human Rights challenges for the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.

The Council is a UN body that “promotes and protects the Human Rights” and makes recommendations to address violations. The inter-governmental institution is made up of 47 Member States elected by the UN General Assembly. The experts chosen by the panel will have to watch a country or a specific theme, such as violence against women, migrants or freedom of religion.

Several Media misinterpreted the information posted by UN Watch, and shared the news that Saudi Arabia had been appointed to “chair the Council of Human Rights”. UN Watch, an NGO that monitors UN’s performance, corrected the mistake on twitter saying that “they’re just chair of the committee that decides who are UN’s human right experts.” Media outlets quickly edited the headlines.

However, as the information was made public on Monday, both UN and Saudi Arabia were heavily criticized.



The Middle-East country is not known as model in respecting Human Rights. As the French newspaper Le Monde posted on Wednesday, on Thursday, Ali Mohammed Al-Nimhr, a Shiite opponent of 21 years-old, was to be beheaded, crucified and exposed until his body is rotten.

Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest executioners in the world, where torture is a normal practice, and Women’s rights are completely ignored.  

In light of these criticisms, the UN High-Commissioner for Human Rights, Joachim Rücker, stepped up to put the news into perspective: “Ambassador Faisal Trad was appointed in January […] with 4 other ambassadors. […] They serve in a personal capacity. No member can take a unilateral decision.”

A columnist in The Daily Beast, Salil Tripathi explained the hypocrisy of the situation due to “outmoded protocols that allow rotating member states to assume control of issues they are least qualified to address.”

Although UN Watch corrected Media’s misinterpretation, they still criticized the decision of the Council. The NGO’s Executive Director, Hillel Neuer, stated the appointment was scandalous because Saudi Arabia “has beheaded more people this year than ISIS.”




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