UN Watch calls on UN, US, EU to oppose “absurd” Saudi bid for Human Rights Council seat
GENEVA, October 24, 2013 – A Geneva-based human rights group today called on world leaders to condemn the Saudi government’s threat to “use force” against women who plan to get behind the wheel in the theocratic kingdom to protest its unique men-only driving law.
Human rights activists are alarmed that Saudi Arabia is poised to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in elections to be held on November 12th.
“That’s absurd,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group that monitors the UN. “The kingdom’s threat of force against women drivers is one more reminder why the UN’s election of Saudi Arabia as a world judge on women’s rights would be like naming a pyromaniac as the town fire chief,” said Neuer.
The monitoring group called on UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and UN rights chief Navi Pillay to speak out against the Saudi bid, and for U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign affairs commissioner Catherine Ashton to rally states against Riyadh’s candidacy.
Neuer said it was “outrageous, hypocritical and contrary to core EU principles” that at least 11 EU states voted last week in support of Saudi Arabia’s Security Council candidacy.
In response to the “Women2Drive” protest campaign planned for this weekend, the Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that social media for “banned gatherings and marches” to encourage women to drive were illegal.
“The Interior Ministry confirms to all that the concerned authorities will enforce the law against all the violators with firmness and force,” the ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.
It added that Saudi laws “prohibit activities disturbing the public peace” and “opening venues to sedition which only serve the senseless, the ill-intentioned, intruders, and opportunity hunters.”
In advance of the Human Rights Council election, UN Watch plans to bring famous dissidents inside the UN to mobilize opposition to the Saudi and other “absurd candidacies.”
“A country whose legal system routinely lashes women rape victims rather than punish the perpetrators is the last that should be given a seat on the UN’s top human rights body,” said Neuer.
“The Saudi regime also uses cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, such as flogging, amputations and eye-gouging,” said Neuer, who noted that these and other abuses were recently documented in written submissions to the UN.
“Regrettably, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record was reviewed this week by the UN, yet no one asked the regime about the 53 Christians who were arrested this year by religious police for the crime of praying in a private home, or about homosexuality being a crime punishable by death, with gays publicly beheaded,” said Neuer.