NGO urges U.S., EU, Ban Ki-moon to protest, citing child soldiers in Chad, subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia
GENEVA, October 17, 2013 – The expected election today of uncontested candidates Chad and Saudi Arabia to the UN Security Council prompted calls by a Geneva-based human rights group for the U.S., EU and UN chief Ban Ki-moon to protest.
“Security Council members are routinely called upon to address critical human rights and humanitarian issues, yet Saudi Arabia ranks as one of the worst places on earth when it comes to the rights of women, freedom of religion, and other fundamental liberties,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the non-governmental UN Watch.
“Saudi Arabia and Chad have abysmal records on human rights, yet the UN is electing both of them today to the Security Council, and next month to the Human Rights Council. Repressive regimes crave this undue and false legitimacy. It’s time for responsible voices — Samantha Power, Catherine Ashton, Ban Ki-moon — to speak out.”
Council members not only decide UN action on international peace and security, but also shape global legislation and enforcement of hot-button issues concerning the protection of civilians in wartime, sexual violence as a weapon of war, accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, international justice, and counter-terrorism and human rights.
“For example, given Saudi Arabia’s despicable record of repeatedly praising and shielding Sudan, anyone who cares about Security Council action on Darfur — including the ICC arrest warrant against the Sudanese president for genocide — ought to be alarmed by Riyadh gaining a vote on this matter.”
The UN Charter provides that “due regard” be “specially paid” to candidates who contribute to the purposes of the world body, which are defined as “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”
According to UN Watch, however, Saudi Arabia has a dismal human rights record. “Women are subjugated in Saudi Arabia. They suffer gross and systematic inequality, and discrimination in law and practice,” said Neuer.
“They can’t vote, drive a car, or even travel within or outside of the country without the permission of a male relative.”
“It is shocking but true that technological progress in Saudi Arabia means that the government now sends male guardians automatic text messages on the cross-border movements of female dependents.”
“Freedom of religion does not exist under the Wahabist regime. Saudis are required by law to be Muslims, while the practice of Christianity and other religions are completely forbidden.”
Chad has child soldiers
Giving Chad oversight on UN peacekeepers would be “inherently contradictory,” added Neuer, who noted that “Chad is on the United Nations’ list of countries that employ child soldiers. This is like asking the foxes to guard the chickens.”
“Just last year, Chadian forces raped four teenage girls on a posting in the Central African Republic, and the government did nothing despite a U.N. complaint,” Neuer added.
“And the ink is not yet dry on the U.N. secretary-general’s May report to the Security Council where Chad was cited on a list of shame for countries using child soldiers.”
The NGO network Watch List on Children and Armed Conflict called the recent inclusion of Chad in the UN’s Mali peacekeeping force a “harmful, precedent-setting action.”
“Vulnerable people in war zones do need UN protection—but not when that’s overseen by systematic human rights abusers like Chad and Saudi Arabia.”
Urgent Debate on Belarus: The United Nations Cannot Say It Didn’t Know Testimony before the UN Human Rights Council, delivered by UN Watch Executive Director