Outrageous! Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador leads Human Rights Council! – Frida Garza & Svati Kirsten Narula

Charles & Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

The UK and Saudi Arabia struck a dodgy deal to get on the UN human rights council – Frida Garza

The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia both serve on the United Nations’ human rights council (HRC), an influential watchdog group for abuses around the world, but the two nations may have achieved that status by unlawful means. Leaked documents obtained by the Australian (paywall) show that the UK and Saudi Arabia exchanged money and votes to get each other elected to the HRC in 2013. 

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador was recently appointed to lead the human rights council, despite fierce opposition from critics who say the kingdom’s atrocious human rights record—including its recent verdict to behead and crucify a 21-year-old activist

The alleged vote-trading happened in November 2013 in New York, during the session to elect states for 2014-16 membership to the HRC. Discussion of the vote-trading scheme happened over diplomatic cables between the two nations, dated January and February 2013. 

The Australian and the UN Watch, a non-governmental body that monitors the UN, translated the Saudi cables, and found that the UK asked the Arab state to support its candidacy to join the human rights group. Saudi officials responded, by offering their support, in return for the UK’s. 

“The ministry might find it an opportunity,” the cable read, “to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom… in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

In another cable, Saudi Arabia paid $100,000 USD ($66,099 GBP) to the UK for unspecified “expenditures” related to nominating the Arab state to the HRC. – Quartz, 30 September 2015

Faisal bin Hassan Trad (left), Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), presents his credentials to Michael Møller, acting director-general of UNOG on January 7, 2014.

This is what happens when you make Saudi Arabia head of the UN Human Rights Council – Svati Kirsten Narula

Leaked documents recently showed that Saudi Arabia struck a dodgy deal with the UK to obtain its seat on the United Nations’ 47-member human rights council (HRC). The Middle Eastern kingdom has an awful human rights record—though to be fair the same can be said of other HRC members

But if Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in the HRC—and its ambassador’s chairmanship of a key HRC panel—was lamented by global human rights defenders, its actual impact there has been downright scandalous. This week, Saudi Arabia reportedly pressured the council into dropping an inquiry it was planning to launch into human rights abuses in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, in which a Saudi-led coalition has been accused of indiscriminate bombings of rebel-held areas. On Monday, according to Doctors Without Borders, Saudi forces bombed a wedding near the western port city of Mokha and killed at least 130 civilians, mostly women and children. 

According to the New York Times, the Netherlands yesterday (Sept. 30) withdrew a draft resolution—due largely to Saudi pushback—which would have instructed the UN high commissioner for human rights to send investigators to Yemen and to ask the warring parties to allow humanitarian deliveries of food and aid. 

“In the face of stiff resistance from Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, and to the dismay of human rights groups, Western governments have accepted a resolution based on a Saudi text that lacks any reference to an independent, international inquiry,” the Times reported. The new resolution asks the HRC only for “technical assistance.” 

Philippe Dam, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, told the Times that this is “a lost opportunity” for the HRC “and a huge victory for Saudi Arabia, protecting it from scrutiny over laws of war violations which will probably continue to be committed in Yemen.” 

Saudi Arabia supports the exiled Yemeni president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels has instituted a blockade at the country’s ports. It is meant to stop the Houthis from obtaining supplies from Iran, but is also blocking access to sorely needed aid for civilians. – Quartz, 2 October 2015

Victims of Saudi air raid that hit a wedding party in Yemen’s Taiz province.

5 Responses

  1. India moves to stop flow of housemaids to Saudi Arabia – KALLOL BHATTACHERJEE – The Hindu – New Delhi – 10 October 2015

    Alarmed by frequent allegations of sex slavery, arm-chopping and sadistic domestic torture of housemaids in Saudi Arabia, India is considering a total ban on recruitment of housemaids by that country.

    This follows the chopping of a domestic worker’s hand by her Saudi employer which India has described as “unacceptable.” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has also ordered the MEA to pursue the matter with the Saudi Foreign Ministry in Riyadh.

    According to an MEA statement, the Indian Embassy in Riyadh has asked for ‘severe punishment’ for the employer who amputated Kasthuri Munirathinam of Vellore.

    The idea of the ban was discussed by Ms. Swaraj at a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) and the Ministry of External Affairs on October 8.

    “Sushmaji and we discussed how to stop the flow of housemaids from Tamil Nadu’s Vellore and West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, which top the list of regions producing housemaids for the Saudi kingdom,” said Rajya Sabha member D. Raja, who is a member of the committee.

    Ms. Swaraj was informed that Saudi Arabia has refused to obey Indian laws on recruitment of manpower which are meant for 18 countries in West Asia and the South-East Asian region.

    Environmentof impunity

    Sources in the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs have drawn attention to the fact that the latest incident of chopping an Indian domestic worker’s hand can be traced to the fact that the Saudi authorities themselves are facilitating an environment of impunity for the Foreign Employers (FEs) in Saudi territory who are forcing the recruitment agents of India to obey Saudi dictates neglecting Indian official procedures.

    Saudi Arabia has refused to implement the $ 2,500 bank guarantee that the foreign employers are expected to deposit with the Embassy of India in Riyadh before approaching recruitment agents in India. The bank guarantee was planned as part of a recommendation of the inter-ministerial meeting held in June 2007.

    More curiously, the Saudi authorities themselves have communicated to the Indian recruitment agents that they will be issued work visas only if they ensured that 25 per cent of their total recruits are housemaids from India.

    Ms. Swaraj and the participants at the Consultative Committee meeting also discussed how best to ensure that the ban will not be violated by unscrupulous agents in India. The Saudi avoidance of the Indian rules can be explained by the fact that till date, they have more than 607 foreign employers registered who are freely violating norms of employing housemaids from India due to their government’s non-compliance with the rules laid down by India.

  2. Saudi woman could face prison after posting video of husband groping their housemaid: report – BY CANDACE AMOS – NEW YORK DAILY NEWS – Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 2:01 PM

    A Saudi woman’s plans to get revenge on her philandering husband could backfire in court.

    After noticing her husband engaging in inappropriate behavior with their housemaid, a wife secretly filmed the encounter and posted the video online.

    “The minimum punishment for this husband is to scandalize him,” reads the caption of the original video, which was pulled down, according to Gulf News Saudi Arabia.

    The secret clip shows a woman, believed to be the maid, pulling away from the husband who is dressed in a white robe.

    Saudi lawyer Majid Qaroob says the woman could face up to one year in jail or a fine of 500,000DH ( which equals $136,122) for defaming her husband according to information technology crime laws.

    “This law includes stiff punishment for anyone using mobile phones with camera or other equipment to photograph others and defame them,” Qaroob told Emirates 247 News.

    Social media users supported the woman’s decision to expose her husband using the hashtag #SaudiWomanCatchesHusbandCheating.

  3. New Delhi Raises Formal Protest After Saudi Employer Cuts Off Indian Maid’s Hand – Rishi Iyengar – Time – 9 October 2015

    An Indian domestic helper working in Saudi Arabia reportedly had her hand chopped off by her employer when she attempted to escape their home, sparking outrage and prompting an official complaint to the Saudi government from India’s foreign ministry.

    The woman’s attempt to escape was motivated by repeated harassment and abuse she endured after moving to the Middle East nation three months ago, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

    Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister for External Affairs, called the incident “unacceptable” on Twitter and said her office had taken it up with Saudi authorities. She also said the Indian embassy is in touch with the victim, who is recovering at a hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

    Kasturi Munirathinam, a 50-year-old mother of four, reportedly incurred the wrath of her employers when she notified local authorities about her alleged ill-treatment.

    “We are told that the incident happened on the night of Sept. 29 after she complained about torture and non-payment of wages by her employer,” her sister S Vijayakumari, who lives in the south Indian city of Vellore, told the Express. “He chopped off her hand when she tried to escape from the house through the balcony. Some neighbours and others took her to hospital.”

    The family learnt about the incident through an “agent” who arranged for her sister’s job, Vijayakumari explained, adding that she had also been sent a video of Munirathinam by a visitor to her hospital. In the video, the victim is seen asking to be brought back to India and describing her attempted escape using a sari.

    The practice of relocating to Arab nations in order to earn money as domestic workers or day laborers is fairly common in India, and Munirathinam’s family said she moved to Saudi Arabia because of financial woes following the weddings of her three daughters.

    “This is a very unfortunate and most condemnable incident,” Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told the Press Trust of India on Thursday. “Our Embassy in Riyadh has taken up the matter with the Saudi Foreign Office and asked for strict action in the matter and severe punishment for the sponsor [employer].

    “We have also sought an independent probe in the incident and urged that a case of attempted murder be lodged against the sponsor so that he is punished, if found guilty as per law,” he added.

  4. Saudi-led Air Strikes Kill 15 at Wedding in Yemen – Ahmed Al-Haj – AP – Time – Yemen – 8 October 2015

    (SANAA, Yemen) — Two airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 15 civilians and wounded 25 others in Yemen on Wednesday at a wedding hosted by a tribal leader known to support the Houthi rebels, witnesses and independent security officials said.

    The strikes targeted the home of the tribal leader in Sanban, a region in Dhamar province 113 km (70 miles) southeast of the capital, Sanaa, the officials and witnesses said.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Witnesses declined to give their names for fear of reprisals.

    There was no immediate coalition comment. The coalition last week denied that its airstrikes hit a wedding party Sept. 28, killing more than 130 people in the deadliest single event of Yemen’s civil war.

    News of the latest airstrikes emerged as officials said Yemeni government forces and their allies, including coalition troops, captured the last outpost of the Shiite Houthi rebels in the key Marib province. The forces took the town of Sirwah, said Col. Ayed al-Moradi, a Yemeni military official.

    With pressure increasing on the Houthis, the United Nations on Wednesday announced that the rebels had accepted a Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting. The U.N. special envoy was on his way to the region to see how Yemen’s government would respond.

    The Houthis have long resisted calls to withdraw from all areas they have seized, which is a key part of the resolution the council approved in April shortly after the conflict began.

    Previous attempts at peace talks have failed. U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed now will seek the support of all main parties to try again, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

    The fighting has killed more than 4,000 people, leaving the Arab world’s poorest country in the grip of a humanitarian crisis and on the brink of famine.

    The forces’ advance on the Houthis’ last outpost in Marib had been stalling for weeks.

    Houthis said they repelled attacks amid coalition airstrikes, but Yemen’s pro-government satellite TV broadcast footage of bodies and destroyed tanks and armored vehicles from inside Sirwah.

    Emirati Brig. Gen. Ali Saif al-Kaabi, part of the coalition, told the satellite TV channel that Marib province is now under anti-Houthi forces’ control.

    According to medical officials, 70 Houthis and more than 50 pro-government fighters were killed in three days of fighting over the town. Witnesses in the town said few Houthi pockets still remain in Sirwah.

    The coalition’s goal is to retake Sanaa, which the rebels captured a year ago, but that still remains a challenge.

    Obstacles along the road west of Marib include more than 10,000 land mines planted by the Houthis, according to a Yemeni military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

    In another development Wednesday, the Houthi-run SABA news agency said rebel fighters targeted and hit a warship from the Saudi-led coalition that was stationed in Bab al-Mandab Strait, the strategic southern entrance to the Red Sea and the gateway to the Suez Canal.

    The report could not be independently confirmed late Wednesday.

  5. The UN and its human rights council have just lost what little credibility they had left!

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