During 2020 waves of criticism were targetting at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over its record of human rights, and all efforts by KSA to improve its image were hollow and unrealistic.
The Saudi authorities attempted to distort its opponents and clear its records, as it charged dozens of detained dissidents who spent months in detention without charge in farcical trials with local state media coverage to obscure the truth, however all attempts were unsuccessful.
In October 2020, elections for the Human Rights Council were held in the General Assembly at the UN, where the seats of the Council are distributed among five regional groups, including 47 countries and the only region with competition was Asia, where China and Saudi Arabia competed with Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Nepal over four seats, and Nepal perceded Saudi Arabia with a difference of 60 votes, winning in total150 votes to 90 votes for Saudi Arabia, which came in fifth place, as winning requires a member to win two-thirds of the votes of the members out of 193 countries. Saudi failed to achieve this percentage given its horrific human rights record.
The Five Groups of the Human Rights Council
The Council is divided into five groups: African countries represented by (13 countries), Asia and the Pacific countries represented by (13 countries), Eastern European countries represented by (6 countries), Latin American countries represented by (8 countries), and Western European countries represented by (7 countries).
Deputy Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Bruno Stagno tweeted, “The HRC elections today delivered a stunning rebuke to SaudiArabia under Mohammed bin Salman: only country not elected, shunned by a majority of the UN. The kingdom reaped what it deserves for its serious violations of human rights and war crimes abroad”.
Human Rights Watch undertook a campaign calling on all member states to unelect KSA at the Human Rights Council, under the leadership of the current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to the grave violations committed against citizens in general, and human rights activists in particular”.
“Serial rights abusers should not be rewarded with seats on the Human Rights Council,” said Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director for New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch.
“Saudi Arabia’s failure to win a seat on the Human Rights Council is a welcome reminder of the need for more competition in U.N. elections,” said HRW’s Charbonneau. “Had there been additional candidates, China, Cuba and Russia might have lost, too. But the addition of these undeserving countries won’t prevent the council from shining a light on abuses and speaking up for victims. In fact, by being on the council, these abusers will be directly in the spotlight.”
A Defeat Agreement
The defeat of Saudi Arabia in the elections to the Human Rights Council was not a mere coincidence, but rather an agreement between all international human rights organizations, in which the “Together for Justice” organization took part in order to pressure countries not to vote for KSA given the heinous crime of killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Organizations have also warned of negative repercussions on the human rights file in the world if KSA won, which would allow other countries the right to commit human rights violations without fear of punishment or deterrence.
Millions of dollars wasted
The Executive Director of the Organization for Democracy in the Arab World (DAWN) Sarah Leah Whitson said: These results that we saw today tell us about the reputation of the human rights record in KSA, what has harmed the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and what has affected Saudi Arabia’s global standing in terms of severe setbacks.
despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin on public relations “to cover his grotesque abuses, the international community just isn’t buying it.”
“Unless Saudi Arabia undertakes dramatic reforms to release political prisoners, end its disastrous war in Yemen and allow its citizens meaningful political participation, it will remain a global pariah,” Whitson said.
This wave of criticism is not the first and it will not be the last unless the Saudi authorities understand the lesson, and realize that the only way to restore confidence in it is by taking real and concrete steps regarding the human rights file, releasing all political detainees, and to stop suppressing freedom of opinion and expression, and reconsider Al-Hawitat tribe forced displacement from their homes, and end the futile war in Yemen.