October 1, 2015 by Janelle P

Recently news came out that Faisal Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Geneva, has been silently appointed this summer as head of a special United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) panel. The UNHRC consists of 47 members and is assigned to promote and protect human rights worldwide. The UNHRC Consultative Group determines which experts will be chosen for investigations on the ground. Ironically, Saudi Arabia which now chairs this group, “has a long history of not allowing human rights activists to monitor in their own country,” according to the director of the Human Rights Action Center, Jack Healey, quoted by Global Research on Sept. 23.

This appointment has led to global outrage. However, many may not be aware of the fact that Saudi Arabia has already been a member of the UNHRC since 2013. It is not the first time that countries with dubious human rights records are part of this council: Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela are among its elected members.

Yet, Saudi Arabia is among the world’s worst human rights offenders. The country is ranked #12 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of NGO UN Watch, says Saudi Arabia ‘has executed through beheading more people this year than ISIS’. At present, several people are sentenced to death through beheading, followed by crucifixion. Among them is Ali Mohammed al-Nimr who was 17 – theoretically a child – when he committed his “crime.” He was protesting against the ill treatment of the Shia minority in the Saudi kingdom.

An important question is how much influence this Consultative Group has, and more specifically, its chair. Even if its role would be limited, international religious liberty analyst and advocate Elizabeth Kendal (in her Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin on Sept. 22) rightly challenges the fact that Saudi Arabia will have to approve the appointment of 77 experts who will be “reporting on countries like Sudan or on issues such as religious liberty or ‘Islamophobia.’”

Henriette, persecution analyst for World Watch Research, says:

“Saudi Arabia violates the rights of all of its religious minorities. In Saudi Arabia, it is forbidden to openly practice any religion other than the purist and strict Wahhabi Islam. Conversion to any religion other than Islam is punishable by death. There are no church buildings and Christians worship in private quarters.

“House churches – mostly of Asian and African migrant workers – are raided from time to time by police and religious police. In spite of what Saudi officials say, there are Saudi Christians as well, living their faith in secrecy. They run the risk of being physically abused and killed by their families. For a country that violates these and many other human rights to head the UNHRC Consultative Group is inconceivable, and this only further undermines the UN system’s credibility.”

Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-0942.

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