Saudi Arabia should be suspended from UN Human Rights Council

The world's leading human rights groups have joined forces to make a call for action against its membership. 

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, two leaden human rights groups have joined forces and call upon the United Nations General Assembly to suspend the membership rights of Saudi Arabia un the UN Human Rights Council.

In a joint statement released on 29th June they argue a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly may suspend the membership rights of any Human Rights Council member engaged in "gross and systematic violations of human rights," as General Assembly Resolution 60/251 states.

Saudi Arabia is the leader of a nine-nation coalition that began a military intervention against the Houthis in Yemen on March 2015. The coalition has carried out numerous attacks that violate international humanitarian law. According to HRW and AI they've used their position in the Council to shield themselves from accountability.

A recent UN report found that the coalition was responsible for 60% of recorded child deaths and injuries and nearly 50% of the attacks on schools and hospitals. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in March, the coalition was responsible for as twice as many civilian casualties as other forces combined, according to OHCHR figures.

In addition to this report HRW and AI have documented 19 attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Also, the naval blockade of Yemen's ports has limited the supply of food and medicine, leaving 80% of the population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, according to IPS.

More so, Saudi Arabia has allegedly threaten the UN of withdrawing fund from critical UN programs to compel UN SG Ban Ki-moon from a list of countries who've committed violations against children.

After receiving criticism for his decision Mr. Ban Ki-moon stated, “I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue.” “I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he continued.

Besides the conflict in Yemen the statement raise concern over Saudi Arabia own human rights record. Since it joined the Council in January 2014 it has continued to punish all forms of dissent without any obstacles.

Executions have surged. More than 350 have been carried out since it was elected in the Council, many of them were not imposed for the most serious crimes but drug-related crimes. Also, HRW and AI say some were imposed to individuals under 18 at the time of the offense which would clearly violate the Convention on the Rights of Children to which the country is part of.

Discrimination against women in law and practice continues. For example through the male guardianship system adult women are treated as legal minors. The Shi'a minority is also vulnerable and authorities have failed to protect migrant workers from abuse.

Despite pledging to “support the human rights bodies and mechanisms of the United Nations and cooperate constructively with them, particularly the Human Rights Council and its subsidiary mechanisms,” Saudi Arabia's engagement hasn't been satisfactory.

 UN Human Rights Council was founded in 2006 and counts with 47 member states who are "responsible of promoting and protecting human rights around the world."

As it marks it tenth anniversary, "its performance, effectiveness and adherence to membership criteria are under scrutiny. UN member states should ensure that the Human Rights Council does not face the same loss of credibility as its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights," the statement concludes.

“Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” concluded Richard Bennett, Director of AI Office in the UN.

 

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