The United Nations was criticised on Sunday after appointing a representative of Saudi Arabia to lead an influential panel charged with setting standards for human rights around the world.
The appointment of Faisal bin Hassan Trad was decried by Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger being held by the state, as well as a UN watchdog that said the decision proved that “oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.”
Badawi was arrested in 2010, and in January received the first 50 of 1,000 lashed for apostasy. He remains incarcerated in Saudi Arabia. Writing on Facebook Ensaf Haidar said that the UN decision gave the government in Riyadh the “a green light to start flogging again”.
UN Watch, a non-governmental organisation, revealed the appointment of the Saudi ambassador to the UN. Trad was elected in June to be chair the panel that oversees the UN’s Human Rights Council, with the power to select personnel for key human rights roles around the world.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer called Trad’s appointment “scandalous,” adding: “Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi."
“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons,” he said.
On Friday, Trad responded to the recent UN report on the death penalty, which called for countries to scrap the punishment. “It is imperative for us not to forget the rights of victims while listening to the calls for abrogation of the provision in the law for capital punishment in the pretext of protecting the rights of the killer,” he said.
Trad said that as an Islamic country, Saudi Arabia is committed to Sharia, which protects the rights of both the offenders and the victims.