MEPs condemn Saudi Arabian appointment to key UN human rights group
Riyadh labelled a "systematic human rights violator" by leading MEPs.
MEPs have condemned the appointment of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UN, Faisal bin Hassan Trad as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Saudi Arabia has been described as having one of the world's worst human rights records. A recent report by the campaigning group Human Rights Watch claims that Riyadh continues to "try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities."
The report also found evidence of "systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities, with hundreds of people subject to unfair trials and arbitrary detention."
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Many non-violent crimes such, as renouncing Islam, homosexuality, adultery and witchcraft are all punishable by death.
The UN's decision to appoint the Saudi ambassador comes as MEPs look to decide who should win the European Parliament's annual Sakharov human rights award.
Several European Parliament political groups have nominated Saudi blogger Raif Bedawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for insulting Islamic values on his website.
Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, a member of parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Group, told the Parliament Magazine that the Saudi Ambassador's appointment was "troubling," and that Riyadh was a "systematic human rights violator."
Schaake said Trad's appointment would, "undermine the effectiveness of the UNHRC, as well as the credibility of its statements," adding, "we really can't afford a situation like this at this moment in time."
She appealed to EU leaders to be "much more outspoken about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia," calling for a "rethink of our alliances and strategic partnerships."
On Saturday, Badawi's wife, Ensar Haidar said the UN's decision was, "like a green light to start flogging again."
Schaake, responding to Haidar's comments said, "I hope he (Badawi) will be awarded the Sakharov Prize, as his initiative for more freedom of religion and thought has been met with inexcusable barbarity."
Cristian Preda, a vice-chair of Parliament's subcommittee on human rights, also condemned Saudi Arabia for its, "known human rights abuses."
However, he explained, "Saudi Arabia as a full member of the UN and a rotating member of the UNHRC cannot be excluded from the system even if its appointment as a chair of a key panel will undermine the credibility of the UNHRC."
He viewed the Saudi appointment as, "an opportunity to make the country face up to its responsibilities and to begin a frank and open dialogue with Saudi Arabia." He added that the Saudis need, "to recognise and respect human rights to play a constructive role on the international scene.
Preda offered his unequivocal support for Sakharov Prize nominee Bedawi saying, "the imprisonment and unacceptable corporal punishment of Raif Bedawi are clear violations of his freedom of expression and his human dignity."
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