Call for the Suspension of Saudi Arabia’s Membership at the Human Rights Council

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Publish Date : 02/16/2018 15:23
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“Due to its clear targeting of civilians in Yemen, causing many to die from starvation and a humanitarian catastrophe, it has become clear that Saudi Arabia’s position on the Human Rights Council is unsustainable and inherently contradictory.” Said Labour's Fabian Hamilton, a shadow foreign minister in UK parliament.

As the highest human rights body in the UN system, the Human Rights Council (HRC) is responsible for the promotion, strengthening and protection of human rights whose members are responsible for the promotion and cooperation in support of human rights and must voluntarily and committedly work towards this.
Fundamentally, one of the reasons that the UN Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the HRC in 2006 and the reforms that have been made to this system, was the conditions and criteria for its membership, which in practice the necessary functionality had eroded due to the presence of big human rights violators and politicisation.

Today too it seems that the power and lobbying of rich countries have been effective in the HRC and the election of some big human rights violators as Council members has caused unbelievable astonishment. The report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights entitled “Cooperation with the UN, representatives and its mechanisms on human rights” published in 2017 mentions violence against individuals who have cooperated with the UN on human rights issues. These individuals have faced violence such as abductions, detentions, solitary confinement or disappearances. There have been cases where the victims have lost their jobs, their homes and offices have been searched, have had travel bans and their properties confiscated and or forcefully undergone psychotherapy.

Nine of the 29 countries listed in this report are actually members of the Human Rights Council. Saudi Arabia is among these countries that violate human rights. The credibility of the council, is being called into question because of the abysmal track record of Saudi Arabia and the failure of other members to call it to account.

Since it joined the UN Human Rights Council in January 2014 Saudi Arabia has carried out gross and systematic human rights violations both at home and in neighbouring Yemen. Not only has Saudi Arabia manifestly failed to uphold the “highest standards in the protection and promotion of human rights”, but it has also actively used its privileged Council position to evade justice for grave violations.

Following Saudi Arabia's recent human rights violations, two British lawyers released a report detailing the violations and demanding the country's membership in the UN Human Rights Council be suspended for violating international law.
Authors Rodney Dixon QC and Lord Kenneth Donald John Macdonald allege that more than 60 individuals were arbitrarily arrested and detained in September and have yet to face formal charges. Many of those detained are believed to be human rights defenders and political activists who spoke out against Saudi Arabia.
The report accuses the state of violating the Arab Charter on Human Rights, Convention Against Torture and customary international law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The report asks the UN General Assembly to take action against the state for human rights violations.

Among the criticisms leveled by the lawyers, concerned Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen where more than 10,000 have been killed. Also in 2016, the UN placed Saudi Arabia on a blacklist of countries responsible for killing children during wars.

Saudi Arabia has consistently attempted to stall, halt, or divert actions in the United Nations to take steps to address widespread human rights abuses in Yemen. It forced the Secretary General to remove it from a children’s rights violators list despite well-documented accounts of violations. It has also stymied and watered down Human Rights Council resolutions. As a member of the Council, Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to uphold international standards and norms of human rights. Because of its refusal to accept this responsibility, its presence on the panel is “contradictory and ironic” as Dixon and Macdonald say.


Although Saudi Arabia to-date has resorted to all forms of efforts and pressures to solidify its status at the HRC by use of lobbying and bribing to omit its dark record at the international level, but it is expected from the HRC to prohibit exploitation paths and not to damage the status of the Council by having such violators in its membership. By giving importance to these types of reports and reactions against big human rights violators, the HRC can defend the independence and dynamicity of this important international body for international cooperation and efforts for the improvement of human rights, and be a good model in this regard, which has been seen less in the past.





“ Call for the Suspension of Saudi Arabia’s Membership at the Human Rights Council ”