Saudi Arabia Wins Seat on UN Human Rights Council

Saudi Arabia won a seat on the Human Rights Council, the UN’s highest rights watchdog body, despite objections from independent human rights organizations. The Kingdom was one of 14 new members elected on Tuesday to the 47-seat Geneva-based council.

Six human rights groups sent a letter to the Saudi King on Friday urging him to improve the country’s record ahead of election by releasing all imprisoned human rights and civil society activists.

“Saudi Arabia should make good on its professed commitment to human rights and stop persecuting citizens who call on the authorities to respect these rights,” said Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch in a statement. “Saudi Arabia has a long way to go to improve its human rights record, but ending the crackdown on independent activists would be a start.”

The New York-based group said that Saudi Arabia and four other nations that won seats — Russia, China, Vietnam and Algeria — have denied UN investigators visits to check alleged abuses. Members of HRC will serve for three years and will not be eligible for immediate reelection after two consecutive terms.

In an editorial published Sunday, the Washington Post said countries that abuse human rights should be kept off the Council. “Saudi Arabia wants to be on the council, even though it has routinely thrown people into prison without charge or trial, and refuses to allow women to drive on their own,” the newspaper said.

Saudi win comes less than 3 weeks after the country rejected a seat on the UN Security Council citing its failure to resolve the crisis in Syria and other international conflicts.

Photo courtesy of UN Photo Geneva via Flickr