By Michaela Whitton
Oct 5, 2015
Two years after the controversial appointment of Saudi Arabia to the UN Human Rights Council, leaked diplomatic cables have revealed the UK was a key player in the election of the Gulf State ─ despite the Saudis’ appalling human rights record.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) is tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world. What’s remarkably under-reported (yet unsurprising) is the claim that notorious human rights abuser, Saudi Arabia, pledged $1 million to UNHRC prior to winning the blood-stained seat.
What is surprising is the next chapter in the farcical saga.
In a classic case of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, the leaked cables ─ translated by UN Watch ─ allege that a secret vote trading deal was made by Britain and Saudi Arabia to ensure both countries were elected to the council.
Passed to Wikileaks in June, the classified files refer to Saudi talks with British diplomats prior to the November 2013 vote in New York.
One read: “The delegation is honoured to send to the ministry the enclosed memorandum, which the delegation has received from the permanent mission of the United Kingdom asking it for the support and backing of the candidacy of their country to the membership of the human rights council (HRC) for the period 2014-2016, in the elections that will take place in 2013 in the city of New York.”
The leaked files then elaborate on the trading of “support” between the two countries:
“The ministry might find it an opportunity to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom to the membership of the council for the period 2014-2015 in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said, “Based on the evidence, we remain deeply concerned that the UK may have contracted to elect the world’s most misogynistic regime as a world judge of human rights.” The latest glimpse into Britain’s shoulder-rubbing with prolific human rights violators was revealed as the Saudi kingdom pummels Yemen for the sixth month and Saudi blogger Raif Badawi languishes behind bars for writing about democracy.
As the kingdom that has beheaded over 100 people this year prepares to crucify a 17-year-old for taking part in demonstrations, Britain’s insincere boasting about being a strong promoter of human rights sounds more hollow than ever.