Elections for the Human Rights Council will be held at the UN General Assembly in October 2020.

DICTATORSHIPS VYING FOR UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL SEATS FOR 2021-2023 TERM

Report by UN Watch
29 April 2020

Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia are running for seats on the UN Human Rights Council for the 2021-2023 term, as revealed today by UN Watch. This report evaluates their candidacies based on the membership criteria laid down in UNGA Resolution 60/251, and examines the claims of the candidates.

The report finds that while each of these governments has submitted pledges or reports to the United Nations claiming to protect and promote universal human rights, their candidacies should be rejected as they fail to meet the basic criteria for UNHRC membership.

The presence of gross and systematic abusers of human rights on the UN Human Rights Council contradicts its own charter. According to UNGA Resolution 60/251, which established the Council in 2006, General Assembly members are obliged to elect states to the Council by considering “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.” The resolution further provides the consideration ought to be given to whether the candidate can meet membership obligations “to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council.”

Our evaluations applied these membership criteria to evaluate the candidacies of Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

In Part I of the report, UN Watch performed a fact-check on five of each country’s claims.

In Part II,  UN Watch examined each candidate’s record of domestic human rights protection, and its U.N. voting record.

 

I. Fact-checking Candidate Countries’ Pledges & Claims

FACT-CHECKING THE CANDIDACY OF CUBA

Cuba’s pledge to the UNHRC includes the following claims:

Cuba’s UN Pledge #1: “Cuba remains committed to promoting consideration of the just historical demands of the peoples of the South and the rest of the world on such issues as…combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance…”

Fact-Check: FALSE. The U.S. State Department reports that Afro-Cubans suffer racial discrimination and have been subject to racial epithets and beatings by security agents in response to political activism. State agents threatened antiracist activist Norberto Mesa Carbonel after he published an open letter to the government on structural racism in Cuba.

Cuba’s UN Pledge #2: “As part of its policy of cooperation with the human rights treaty bodies, Cuba systematically complies with requests for information from the special procedure mandate holders of the Human Rights Council.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. According to a U.N. special procedures database, Cuba has barred entry to the Council’s human rights experts on torture, free assembly, free expression, and arbitrary detention, rejecting their requests to visit the island and report on the situation of human rights.

Cuba’s UN Pledge #3: Cuba commits to promoting democracy by highlighting “the exercise of power by the people” and “the participatory and democratic nature of the Cuban political system.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Freedom House reports that Cuba is an authoritarian one-party system that  excludes the public from any genuine and autonomous political participation. Cuba arbitrarily detained leading rights activist and anti-government opposition figure Jose Daniel Ferrer in October 2019 on false charges and subjected him to brutal torture in prison, from which he was just released after six months.

Cuba’s UN Pledge #4: “Cuba will continue to promote its traditional initiatives on such vital issues as the right to food and the promotion of cultural rights as essential requirements for the enjoyment of all human rights.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Cuba institutionalized censorship of independent art and culture by passing Decree 349 in December 2019, which established violations for art that was not regulated or recognized by official cultural institutions. Because of Cuba’s failed policies, including centralized control, its citizens lack basic foods.

Cuba’s UN Pledge #5: “Cuba seeks to…prevent the Council’s work from being tainted by the political manipulation that discredited and put paid to the Commission on Human Rights.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Cuba is more responsible than any other country in the world for the political manipulation of the UNHRC, sponsoring resolutions that seek to erode the meaning of individual human rights and to empower dictatorships. When Cuba came up for mandatory Council review in 2013, the regime committed a massive fraud on the Council by orchestrating 454 front groups to officially register 93 statements falsely praising Havana’s policies and practices. In addition, Cuba systematically opposes UN resolutions that speak out for human rights victims in Iran, North Korea and Syria. Cuba has backed human rights abusers through a resolution denying the right to sanction such regimes.

The Cuban dictatorship has now launched a campaign to promote its UNHRC candidacy in state-backed media, saying “Cuba has morality and the right to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council.” (We have morality to be a member of the Human Rights Council, Cuban President affirms, Juventud Rebelde, February 29, 2020.)

The regime added: “If we talk about true commitment in the matter of promotion and protection of all human rights for all people and peoples of the world — without double standards, manipulation, politicization and selectivity of the subject — our country proudly exhibits important achievements at international level.” (The undeniable endorsement of Cuba to integrate the Human Rights Council, Radio Cadena Agromonte, March 2, 2020).

 

FACT-CHECKING THE CANDIDACY OF RUSSIA

Russia’s pledge to the UNHRC includes the following claims.

Russia’s UN Pledge #1: Russia commits to countering “attempts to use human rights concepts as an instrument of political pressure and interference in the internal affairs of States, including with a view to destabilizing them and changing legitimate governments.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Russia itself systematically interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, waging global disinformation campaigns against Western democracies, including one deployed now during the Coronavirus pandemic. Russia disseminates fake news and contradictory reports, in six different languages, while orchestrating thousands of social media accounts to spread fake conspiracy theories. Russia seeks to undermine the very ability to distinguish between truth and fiction, as an attack on the democratic system.

Russia’s UN Pledge #2:  Russia seeks to “ensure protection of human rights and freedoms under international law and in strict compliance by States with their international human rights obligations.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Russia tramples international law by invading Ukraine, swallowing Crimea, and bombing civilians, hospitals and schools in Syria on a systematic basis, as the New York Times documented in great detail. A report from the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria explicitly accused Russia of direct involvement in war crimes for the “indiscriminate” bombing of civilian areas that killed 43 people and injured at last 109 others.

Russia’s UN Pledge #3: Russia commits to involving “civil society institutions in addressing international issues.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Freedom House reports that in 2019 the government deemed 74 domestic groups and 19 foreign NGOs as “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations, giving authorities a range of sanctions to stifle their activity.

Russia’s UN Pledge #4: Russia opposes “religious and ethnic intolerance.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Last year in the city of Surgut, authorities subjected seven Jehovah’s Witnesses—a religious group banned by the government in 2017—to torture including electric shocks, suffocation, and beatings.

Russia’s UN Pledge #5: Russia says that pays “considerable attention” to “interaction with the UN Human Rights Council’s system of Special Procedures.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Russia has denied entry to U.N. human rights experts on enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, who were seeking to visit in order to issue reports. However, Russia did give $50,000 to fund the work of a discredited UN expert who described Russia as a victim of human rights violations, in the form of sanctions imposed by Western democracies.

 

FACT-CHECKING THE CANDIDACY OF SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia declared its candidacy for the UNHRC’s 2021-2023 term at a summit of the 56-nation Islamic group, enshrined in a resolution adopted by the OIC. Riyadh has not yet published its campaign pledges, but its most recent submission to a UN human rights review is replete with false claims about its record:

Saudi Arabia’s UN Claim #1: “The death sentence is only handed down for the most serious crimes and under strict conditions.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. According to the BBC, Saudi Arabia put to death 184 people in 2019—a record number for the kingdom. The U.S. State Department reports that Saudi Arabia carries out the death sentence for offenses of apostasy, sorcery and adultery.

Saudi Arabia’s UN Claim #2: “Civil society organizations work in partnership with the relevant bodies to prepare and monitor implementation of bills and draft regulations and assist with the publication of reports on human rights.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. The Saudi government denies licenses to new organizations and disbands existing ones that “harm national unity,” restricting many civil society groups and other non-governmental institutions. In 2016, the kingdom jailed nearly all the founders of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). The country’s terrorism tribunal convicted ACPRA activists Abd al-Aziz al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid to eight and nine years in prison respectively, in addition to lengthy travel bans based solely on their peaceful pro-reform advocacy.

Saudi Arabia’s UN Claim #3: “The laws of the Kingdom guarantee freedom of opinion and expression, on which there are no restrictions save those stipulated by law and the need to respect the rights and reputation of others, protect national security and safeguard public order, public health and public decency…”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Dissidents who dare speak out and advocate democracy or human rights are thrown into prison and tortured. Human rights activist and blogger Raif Badawi, who advocated for a more free society, was jailed in 2014 for “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and brought to court on several charges including apostasy. He has languished behind bars for more than seven years.

Saudi Arabia’s UN Claim #4: Saudi Arabia is “concerned with the promotion and protection of women’s rights and the empowerment of women.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Saudi Arabia has carried out mass arrests of women’s rights activists, a number of whom have allegedly been sexually assaulted and suffered torture including whipping and electric shocks. The regime jailed women’s rights activist Lina al-Hathloul for calling on the government to lift the ban on women driving and end male guardianship laws.

Saudi Arabia’s UN Claim #5: “The Kingdom is keen to comply fully with the provisions and rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. As such, it affirms that all military operations by the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen are conducted in a manner fully consistent with those provisions and rules.”

Fact-Check: FALSE. Saudi Arabia has committed war crimes as head of the coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, where Saudi forces continue to bomb civilian areas and contribute to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

II. Examining Candidates’ Human Rights & UN Voting Records 

HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD OF CUBA

Cuba commits serious human rights violations, including:

  • Neither free nor fair elections
  • Systematic political arrests
  • Government threats, arrest and violence against dissent
  • Severe violations of freedom of association
  • Arbitrary arrest of civil society members and independent journalists
  • Continuous and systematic violations of freedom of expression
  • Gross limitations of the right of free media
  • Circumscribed academic freedom
  • Severely restricted worker rights, including a ban on labor unions
  • Lack of independent judiciary

Discussion

The Cuban people have no ability to select their political representatives, under a one-party system. Any political organization outside the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) is prohibited. The people can only cast a ballot in municipal elections — where the candidates must be approved by political commissions.[1]

The Cuban Constitution establishes a system of subordination and a lack of independence within the powers of the State, which legally subordinates the entire judicial system and the exercise of any fundamental right to the will of the Communist Party secretary-general. The Cuban Constitution does not recognize the judiciary as an independent organ separate from the executive and the legislative branches of government, nor as the organ responsible for interpreting the Constitution in an objective, independent, and impartial manner, or even for conducting the constitutional review of laws or the acts of the executive.[2]

The Cuban judiciary is entirely subordinate to the CCP. The law deprives judges of the guarantee of stability and tenure by stating that the “professional judges and their professional permanent substitutes are elected without being subject to an end of term.”  This provision allows the judges to be appointed and removed arbitrarily by the authorities.

Additionally, all Cuban attorneys must be registered with the National Organization of Collective Law Offices (ONBC) as a condition for practicing their profession. The only attorneys authorized to practice law in Cuba are those admitted within the ONBC. However, the ONBC’s Code of Ethics provides that attorneys, in the exercise of the profession, must “consciously assume and contribute — within their duties — to defend, preserve and be faithful to the principles comprised in the nation, the Revolution and Socialism,” and this should be done “imbued with the righteous, noble and humane ideas of Socialism and inspired by the example set by the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz.”

For decades, the Cuban State has restricted and systematically violated the human rights of the individuals within its territory. The systematic nature of these violations is evidenced by the continuous attacks and harassment carried out by the Cuban government against any opposition group or individual critical of the regime.[3] Cuba uses arbitrary detention to maintain political control over civil society and to deter dissent. In 2015 the authorities conducted more than 8,600 politically-motivated detentions.[4]

Political prisoners in Cuba are deprived of basic amenities, and regularly beaten, and tortured. On July 22, 2016, political dissident Guillermo Farinas went on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of imprisonment of political prisoners.[5]

It should be noted that, although different Cuban civil society groups often call themselves “political parties” (e.g. Arco Progressive Party, Christian Democratic Party, National Liberal Party of Cuba, Social Democratic Party of Cuba), they do not have the legal status to operate as such or to compete for public office within the institutions of the Cuban State. These are civil associations of people whose will to participate in the civic and political life in Cuba is legitimate from the standpoint of a democratic society, but that are considered and treated as illegal — even as enemies of the State — under the totalitarian legal system guaranteed by the Cuban Constitution. Individuals who disagree with or are critical of any of the government’s branches, regardless of whether they are organized or not, are not allowed to express their views through the media, which are—as mentioned above—subject to the State’s complete control.  On the contrary: when the totalitarian State’s media refer to dissenting individuals, they do so with the disqualifying and dehumanizing adjectives of “worms,” “wormholes,” and “scum,” or with the criminalizing labels of “antisocial elements,” “mercenaries,” “subversives,” “terrorists,” and “counterrevolutionaries.”[6]

Before President Obama’s visit to Cuba in March 2016, the Cuban authorities intensified the crackdown on dissent. A weekly march by the group “Ladies in White,” mothers of jailed dissenters, was violently disrupted a few days before Obama’s visit, and some 30 activists were detained.[7]

Oswaldo Payá, one of the most prominent Cuban dissidents, died under mysterious circumstances in 2012. On July 22, 2015, the third anniversary of the death of Payá, Human Rights Foundation (HRF) published a legal report highlighting the inconsistencies of the official government investigation following his death. HRF documented numerous due process violations, including damning witness accounts, a grossly inadequate autopsy examination, and other key pieces of evidence that were overlooked by the Cuban judicial system. HRF’s report concluded that the “evidence, which was deliberately ignored, strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012, were not an accident, but instead the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state.”[8] An international independent inquiry into the events has been demanded by leading world figures. The daughter of Oswaldo Payá, Rosa María Payá, still fights for the truth.[9]

U.N. Voting Record

Negative: Cuba voted against resolutions in the General Assembly that spoke out for human rights victims in Iran, North Korea and Syria. Cuba backed human rights abusers through a resolution denying the right to sanction such regimes. At the Human Rights Council, Cuba voted against resolutions in support of human rights victims in Belarus and Ukraine.

[1] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2016 Index, Cuba country report, available at www.freedomhouse.org.

[2] On September 16, 2012, Calixto Ramón Martínez, a journalist for the independent news agency Hablemos Press (a Cuban civil society organization — not recognized by the State — formed by self-taught journalists who work to expose the conditions in Cuba and circumvent the State’s monopoly over media) was arrested at José Martí International Airport in Havana. He had been investigating allegations that medicine provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the cholera outbreak (which the Cuban government had allegedly tried to downplay since it began in mid-2012) was being kept at the airport instead of being distributed to the Cuban people. Calixto Ramón endured almost seven months of arbitrary imprisonment. He was never officially charged for a crime. See news report from Pen International, Cuba: Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias released; two other writers remain imprisoned, Apr. 11, 2013, available at http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/cuba-calixto-ramon-martinez-arias-released-two-other-writers-remain-imprisoned/. See also press release from the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ welcomes release of Cuban journalist, Apr. 10, 2013, available at https://cpj.org/2013/04/cpj-welcomes-release-of-cuban-journalist.php#more; press release from Reporters Without Borders, Independent reporter released after seven months in detention, Apr. 10, 2013, available at http://en.rsf.org/cuba-independent-reporter-released-10-04-2013,44361.html

[3] See Néstor Almendros, Nobody Listened (Cuban Human Rights Film Project) (1987), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Me-5wryFDQ. In the documentary, poets, writers, lawyers, ex-members of the PCC, and ex-commanders of the Cuban Revolution military share their experiences as protagonists and witnesses of the abuses and crimes of the judicial system and prisons in Cuba. Jorge Valles (arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1964); Huber Matos (a commander of the Cuban Revolution, accused of “sedition” and sentenced to 20 years in prison); Raúl Carmenate (detained at 16 years old in March of 1965, liberated 14 years later in 1979); Manuel del Valle; Sergio Bravo (a Protestant pastor who preached on the streets and was detained three times, spending a total of 18 years in prison until September 1979); Alcides Martínez and Miguel Torres Calero (detained and sentenced to 20 years for “conspiring against the powers of the State,” released after 12 years); among others, denounced the threats, beatings, torture, mutilations, summary trials, executions, and murders that they witnessed or endured during the decades they spent in prison.

[4] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, Cuba Chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/cuba and Amnesty International, Cuba country report, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/americas/cuba/report-cuba.

[5] “Leading Cuban dissident begins hunger strike,” AFP, July 2, 2016, available at http://www.france24.com/en/20160722-leading-cuban-dissident-begins-hunger-strike.

[6] See, e.g., videos and press releases from different sources exposing this practice, available at (some videos and releases are in Spanish only) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiJpfSpCOmk;

https://youtu.be/AATbW3uA_08?t=479;

http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/2013/11/10/obama-habla-de-cuba-entre-gusanos/; http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/2014/01/23/la-patria-grande-un-verdadero-dolor-de-cabeza-para-ee-uu/; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ5Hp5G_dDo (last visited Sept. 2, 2014).

[7] “Protesting wives of political prisoners arrested before Obama’s arrival in Cuba”, New York Times, March 21 2016, available at http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/03/21/protesting-wives-of-political-prisoners-arrested-before-obamas-arrival-in-cuba.

[8] The Case of Oswaldo Payá, Human Rights Foundation (2015), available at http://humanrightsfoundation.org/uploads/The_Case_of_Oswaldo_Pay%C3%A1-ENG.pdf.

[9] Randall C. Archibold, “Inquiry Is Sought Into Death of Castro Critic,” The New York Times, April 4, 2013, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/world/americas/inquiry-is-sought-into-death-of-oswaldo-paya-cuban-dissident.html

 

HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD OF RUSSIA

Russia commits serious human rights violations, including:

  • Limited ability of citizens to elect their representatives
  • Repressive laws designed to suppress political opposition and dissent
  • Government restrictions on the freedom of the media
  • Restrictions of freedom of expression and assembly
  • Prosecution of individuals supporting the government of Ukraine or criticizing Russian policies in the occupied Ukrainian territories
  • Politically motivated denial of due process to anti-Putin defendants
  • Discrimination against racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities
  • Government prosecution of LGBTI persons
  • Torture at detention facilities
  • Overcrowded and substandard prison conditions
  • Executive branch pressures on the judiciary
  • Human trafficking
  • Discrimination against people with disabilities
  • Limited workers’ rights
  • Harassment of civil society
  • Occupation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian militants in Ukraine
  • Deterioration of human rights due to the continued occupation and hostilities with the Ukrainian army

 

Discussion

Due to the international isolation that followed the occupation of Crimea and growing economic disparity, the Russian government sought to consolidate public opinion with notions of patriotism and traditional values. In this context, the Russian authorities cracked down on dissent and opposition that were deemed unpatriotic or opposed to traditional values.[1]

On February 27, 2015, Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader, was shot dead. Nemtsov was reportedly working on publishing a detailed report on the involvement of Russian soldiers in East Ukraine. Attempts to commemorate his death were opposed by pro-government groups and civil authorities.[2]

The judiciary lacks independence from the executive branch and career advancement is effectively tied to compliance with government preferences. Corruption in Russia is extremely common. According to the Panama Papers, even president Vladimir Putin is involved along with many other high-level figures of the Russian establishment.[3]

The government retains strict control over media outlets. The state effectively controls most media outlets in the country.[4]

Russia maintains rigorous control over dissemination of information in other forms. Natalya Sharina, director in a library of Ukrainian literature in Moscow, was arrested after publications by Ukrainian nationalist author Dmitry Korchinsky were found at the library. She was later jailed without access to food, water, or bedding before being released to house arrest.[5]

LGBTI persons are continuously and systematically persecuted by the authorities, and experience societal persecution. In May 2015, the Moscow gay parade was banned by the authorities; in September, the website Deti 404, which provides an online discussion platform for LGBTI adolescents, was blocked by the authorities. Sergey Alekseenko, a former director of a Russian LGBTI organization, was charged with violating the Russian propaganda law.[6]

In March 2014, Russia by force illegally annexed Crimea and started a war in Eastern Ukraine. Under Russian occupation, human rights in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are systematically violated and serious human rights abuses by the armed groups supported by Russia continued to be reported, including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labor, and sexual violence, as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property.[7]

Violation of the Tatar people’s human rights in the occupied Crimean Peninsula continue with impunity. Russian forces in Crimea practice discrimination, seizure of books and other means designed to repress the Tatar people’s religious rights. In April 2016, Russian authorities arbitrarily arrested 35 Crimean Tatars, and detained and interrogated them without formal charges. Russia continues to violate Tatars’ freedom of expression and freedom of media. In May 2016, Russian-backed authorities blocked a pro-Tatar broadcast of Radio Free Europe.[8]

During the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008, Russia occupied South Ossetia and militias perpetrated ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population in the area. The Russian Army failed to maintain its obligations as an occupation force, allowing South Ossetian militants to pillage and destroy ethnic Georgian villages. Human rights in the region have continuously deteriorated since the occupation.[9]

U.N. Voting Record

Negative: Russia voted against resolutions in the General Assembly that spoke out for human rights victims in Iran, North Korea and Syria. Russia backed human rights abusers through a resolution denying the right to sanction such regimes. At the Human Rights Council, Russia voted against resolutions in support of human rights victims in Belarus and Ukraine and against a resolution on gay rights.

 

HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD OF SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia commits serious human rights violations, including:

  • Death sentences for offences of apostasy, sorcery and adultery
  • Corporal punishment, including flogging and amputation, as forms of judicial penalty
  • Judicial branch is not independent
  • Court testimonies by women, non-practicing Sunnis, Shiites and other minorities are not considered equal before the law, and may be discounted at the discretion of the judge
  • Highest number of executions since 1995, executions are often public
  • Frequent arbitrary arrests of dissenters and minorities
  • Frequent and systematic restrictions of freedom of speech and of the press
  • Apostasy and blasphemy are punishable by death
  • Complete state censorship of media
  • Suppression of dissent
  • Violence and discrimination against women in all fields of life
  • Limitation of academic freedom
  • No freedom of assembly and association
  • Human rights defenders are systematically prosecuted
  • Governed by an absolute monarchy
  • Strict restrictions on civil society and other non-governmental institutions
  • Spousal rape is not criminalized
  • Discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons
  • Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death or flogging

 

Discussion

Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute monarchy and theocracy. Citizens have no ability to influence the governing entity through democratic practices. The judiciary is highly influenced by the government, and is dictated by Sharia law.[10]

The government and courts systematically deny freedoms of expression and of the media. It prosecutes and imprisons dissenters and peaceful critics of government policies or the Islamic religion. Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, was convicted in 2014 for insulting Islam and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was also flogged 50 times, a punishment executed in public.[11]

In 2015, Saudi Arabia carried out 158 executions, many for non-violent crimes like drug offences. Apostasy and blasphemy are also punishable by death. Al-Nimr’s confession for his alleged crimes of terrorism was reportedly extracted using torture.[12] In 2016, Saudi Arabia seem set on breaking their personal record of annual executions. As of July, Saudi Arabia  has executed 108 people in total, and more than ten percent of the executions were applied for drug trafficking offences.[13]

Same-sex sexual conduct is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. It is also illegal for a man to have a “feminine behavior.” Because of severe discrimination and violence, no organizations exist that promote LGBTI rights in Saudi-Arabia.[14]

Every woman in Saudi Arabia is required by law to have a male guardian. Male guardians have influence on most walks of life for women. Women need a guardian’s permission to travel outside Saudi Arabian borders. Guardians influence whether a woman may study or work in different disciplines and occupations, and whether an incarcerated woman may exit jail when her legal jail term is over. Women are widely segregated in Saudi Arabia, a nation where women cannot even drive a car.[15]

In Saudi Arabia, converting from Islam is prohibited by law. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. In 2014, 28 people including children were arrested by the religious police for practicing their religion at home.[16]

Saudi Arabia heads the coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Between March 2015 and August 2016, 3,799 civilians have been killed, including many children. Some 8 million people including 3 million women and children are suffering from malnutrition; 3 million people have been forced to leave their homes.[17] In March 2016, Saudi forces bombed a market in the village of Al Khamees in Yemen, killing over 100 civilians, at least twenty-four of them children.[18] Saudi Arabia successfully pressured the UN to remove criticism of its actions harming children.

U.N. Voting Record

Negative: Saudi Arabia abstained on a resolution in the General Assembly that spoke out for human rights victims in Iran, although it supported the ones on North Korea and Syria. Saudi Arabia backed human rights abusers through a resolution denying the right to sanction such regimes. At the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia abstained on resolutions in support of human rights victims in Belarus and Ukraine and voted against a resolution on gay rights.

[1] Amnesty International, Russian Federation Report, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/russian-federation/report-russian-federation/.

[2] Sarah Rainsford, “Boris Nemtsov killing: Grief, fear and anger one year on,” BBC, February 27, 2016, available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35675221.

[3] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2016, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/russia and Luke Harding, “How to hide a billion dollars,” The Guardian, April 3, 2016, available at https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/03/panama-papers-money-hidden-offshore.

[4] Freedom House, Freedom of the Press Index 2015, Russia country report. Available at www.freedomhouse.org.

[5] “Russian police detain director of Ukrainian library in Moscow,” The Guardian, October 29, 2015, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/29/russian-police-detain-natalya-sharina-ukrainian-library-director-moscow.

[6] “Russia: Court Rules Against LGBT Activist,” Human Rights Watch, February 3, 2016, available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/03/russia-court-rules-against-lgbt-activist.

[7] “Ukraine: “You Don’t Exist”: Arbitrary Detentions, Enforced Disappearances, and Torture in Eastern Ukraine,” Amnesty International, July 21, 2016, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur50/4455/2016/en and “Human Right’s Abuses in Russian-Occupied Crimea,” Freedom House, available at https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/CrimeaReport_FINAL.pdf.

[8] “Ukraine: Fear, Repression in Crimea,” Human Rights Watch, March 3, 2016, available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/18/ukraine-fear-repression-crimea and  “Crimea Realities Chief Says Ban Won’t Stop Website,” Radio Free Europe, August 24, 2016, available at http://www.rferl.org/content/release-crimea-realities-chief-says-ban-wont-stop-website/27731357.html.

[9] “Up In Flames,” Human Rights Watch, January 23, 2009, available at https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/01/23/flames/humanitarian-law-violations-and-civilian-victims-conflict-over-south.

[10] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2015, Saudi Arabia country report, available at www.freedomhouse.org.

[11] “Saudi blogger Raif Badawi gets 10 year jail sentence,” BBC, May 8 2014, available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27318400 and Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2016, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/saudi-arabia.

[12] “Death penalty 2015: Facts and figures”, Amnesty International, April 6, 2016, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/04/death-penalty-2015-facts-and-figures and “Shia cleric among 47 executed by Saudi Arabia in a single day,” Amnesty International, January 2, 2016, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/01/shia-cleric-among-47-executed-by-saudi-arabia-in-a-single-day/.

[13] “Saudi Arabia: Surge in executions continues as death toll approaches 100,” Amnesty International, May 27, 2016, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/05/saudi-arabia-surge-in-executions-continues-as-death-toll-approaches-100/ and “Saudi Arabia: Over 100 Executions Since January 1,” Human Rights Watch, July 27, 2016, available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/27/saudi-arabia-over-100-executions-january-1.

[14] Brian Whitaker, “Saudis’ tough line on gays,” The Guardian, April 9, 2005, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/apr/09/saudiarabia.brianwhitaker and Max Bearak & Darla Cameron, “Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death,” The Washington Post, June 16, 2016, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/13/here-are-the-10-countries-where-homosexuality-may-be-punished-by-death-2.

[15] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, Saudi Arabia country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/saudi-arabia.

[16] Matthew Blake, “Dozens of Christians ‘including women and children’ are arrested in Saudi Arabia after tip-off to state’s Islamist police force,” Daily Mail, September 15, 2014, available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2756134/Dozens-Christians-including-women-children-arrested-Saudi-Arabia-tip-state-s-Islamist-police-force.html.

[17] “High Commissioner Zeid Urges Accountability for Violations in Yemen,” United Nations, August 25, 2016, available at http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B9C2E/(httpNewsByYear_en)/FBF612BBA464AB6DC125801A00366E21?OpenDocument.

[18] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, Saudi Arabia country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/saudi-arabia.

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