Activists lash out at Saudi’s appointment as UN Human Rights panel head

Critics of the appointment include non-governmental organisation UN Watch and the wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi



Human rights organisations and activists have hit out at the appointment of a Saudi Arabian national as the head of a United Nations Human Rights Council panel.

It was revealed on Sunday that Saudi’s representative to the UN Faisal bin Hassan Trad was elected to head a panel that will be responsible for naming experts who determine global human rights standards. The appointment was made in June but went unreported at that time.

Critics of the appointment include non-governmental organisation UN Watch and the wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

“It is scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIL to be head of a key human rights panel,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

“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.

“Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights,” Neuer added.

Meanwhile, Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haider said that the UN’s decision to appoint a Saudi to head the human rights panel was akin to providing “green light “ for the country to resume her husband’s flogging sentence.

Saudi Arabia has a controversial record in maintaining human rights as it follows a strict code of Sharia law. The country has criminalised acts of homosexuality, false prophecy, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery while handing out death sentences for murder, rape, use of drugs and robbery.

The Gulf Arab country was also strongly criticised by human rights group Amnesty International for having one of the highest number of executions worldwide.

According to a recent report, Saudi Arabia beheaded 100 people during the first six months of this year, second only to Iran.

The kingdom was also involved in a diplomatic row with Sweden after the country’s foreign minister Margot Wallstorm criticised the Saudi government’s ruling to subject blogger Badawi to 1,000 lashes.