Human Rights

Meet the U.N.’s New Pretender of Human Rights – Saudi Arabia

 Meet the U.N.’s New Offender Defender Pretender of Human Rights – Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, the global capital of misogyny firmly rooted in the dark ages, has drawn global scrutiny due to its elevation to the U.N. Human Rights Council (“UNHRC”) in 2013.  Leaked cables show that the appointment was due to a backroom deal between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia in which they exchanged money and votes to get both elected.

Now, while Saudi Arabia is in the middle of a record year of executions, it has been elevated to the Chair of a panel of independent experts on the UNHRC.  The Chair picks experts to investigate human rights abuses and already Saudi Arabia has squashed a request to investigate by the Netherlands yesterday to instruct the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to send investigators to Yemen to (i) investigate reports of  indiscriminate bombings of rebel-held areas by the Saudi-led coalition and (ii)ask the warring parties to allow humanitarian deliveries of food and aid.

Below is an introduction to this new defender of global human rights outlining its theocratic rule, subjugation of women, disregard for human rights, mistreatment of migrants and support of radical Islam and terrorism abroad.

Saudi Arabia Holds 16 Percent of the World’s Oil Reserve

  • Saudi Arabia is the 13th largest country in the world with 27.7 million people (of which approximately 30 percent are immigrants).  It also holds sixteen percent of the world’s known oil reserves which it has translated into military power – the 4th largest  in the world.

As the Birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia Imposes Strict Theocratic Rule

  • In 2010, the U.S. State Department stated that in Saudi Arabia “freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and is severely restricted in practice” and that “government policies continued to place severe restrictions on religious freedom”. No faith other than Islam is permitted to be practiced, although there are nearly a million Christians, nearly all foreign workers, in Saudi Arabia.
  • Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) carries the death penalty, although there have been no confirmed reports of executions for apostasy in recent years. In March 2014, the Saudi interior ministry issued a royal decree branding all atheists as terrorists, which defines terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based”.
  • Homosexuality is a crime that can be punished by flogging or death.

Women Are Second Class Citizens

  • The U.S. State department considers that “discrimination against women is a significant problem” in Saudi Arabia and that women have few political or social rights.  Every adult woman has to have a close male relative as her “guardian”  As a result, Human Rights Watch has described the position of Saudi women as no different from being a minor, with little authority over their own lives.
  • The religious police mutawa impose restrictions on women when in public. These restrictions include requiring women to sit in separate specially designated family sections in restaurants, to wear an abaya (a loose-fitting, full-length black cloak covering the entire body) and to conceal their hair. 
  • Saudi Arabia is the only country to ban women from driving and, in 2015, became the last country to afford women the right to vote in municipal elections.
  • Rape is a criminal offense under sharia with a wide range of penalties from flogging to execution, with courts punishing the victims for illegal “mixing of genders,” even when there was no conviction for rape.
  • Incidence of female spousal abuse is estimated to be between 16 to 50 percent of all wives.

Saudi Arabia Has Refused to Sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Saudi Arabia is a party to only three international human rights instruments: the Genocide Convention, the Slavery Convention and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery. It was one of only a handful of countries  – South Africa and former Soviet Bloc countries were the others – that did not vote for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.
  • The government remained intolerant of dissent and repressed its critics, including bloggers and other online commentators, political and women’s rights activists, members of the Shi’a minority, and human rights activists and defenders.
  • Among them are blogger Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and a flogging of 1,000 lashes after convicting him on charges that included “insulting Islam” for establishing the website Saudi Arabian Liberals, which promoted political and social debate, and for criticizing some religious leaders; and Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was placed under arrest at age 17 and faces beheading and crucifixion for participating in pro-democracy protests.

Saudi Arabia Only Outlawed Slavery in 1962 and Continues to Engage in Human Trafficking

  • The CIA World Factbook states “Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution; many men and women from Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa who voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or low-skilled laborers subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment, withholding of passports, restriction of movement, food deprivation, and abuse.

Saudi Arabia is Promoting Radical Islam Worldwide

  • Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recently wrote, “the title greatest “purveyors of radical Islam” does not belong to the Iranians. Not even close. That belongs to our putative ally Saudi Arabia”.  Friedman cites the “billions and billions of dollars the Saudis have invested since the 1970s into wiping out the pluralism of Islam — the Sufi, moderate Sunni and Shiite versions — and imposing in its place the puritanical, anti-modern, anti-women, anti-Western, anti-pluralistic Wahhabi Salafist brand of Islam promoted by the Saudi religious establishment.”
  • Freedom House has reviewed Saudi Arabian textbooks and found that they (i) condemn and denigrate Shiite and Sufi Muslims’ beliefs and practices as heretical and call them “polytheists;” (ii) command Muslims to “hate” Christians, Jews, “polytheists” and other “unbelievers,” including non-Wahhabi Muslims, though, incongruously, not to treat them “unjustly”; (ii) teach that “Jews and the Christians are enemies of the [Muslim] believers” and that “the clash” between the two realms is perpetual; (iv) assert that the spread of Islam through jihad is a “religious duty” and (v) instruct that “fighting between Muslims and Jews” will continue until Judgment Day, and that the Muslims are promised victory over the Jews in the end.
  • Wikileaks cables reveal Saudi support for terrorist groups in Pakistan and elsewhere, while there remains a battle to declassify 28-pages of the 9-11 Commission Report which addresses Saudi support for the operation which included 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi.


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