Archive for the 'Saudi Arabia' Category

UN’s Yemen statement gives free pass to Saudi & Iranian roles in mass killings

Congratulations to the UN human rights office for the long statement below on the suffering in Yemen that makes only one fleeting mention of the Saudi role, and no mention at all of the Iranian role. Once again, the world’s worst abusers of human rights are given a free pass.


Yemen Briefing Note by Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

21 July 2015

Intense fighting has continued in Yemen, with at least 165 civilians, including 53 children and 23 women, killed between 3 and 15 July. Another 210 were injured during this period. The majority of the casualties are reported to have been caused by air strikes, but civilians are also regularly being injured and killed by mortar fire and in street fighting. The total death toll since 26 March is now at least 1,693 civilians, with another 3,829 injured. Continue reading ‘UN’s Yemen statement gives free pass to Saudi & Iranian roles in mass killings’

UN: “No comment” on Saudi cash-for-HRC-seat scandal

The UN won’t comment on the scandal, revealed by UN Watch, that Saudi Arabia used money and UN votes to buy itself a seat on the UN Human Rights Council:

UN Watch’s blog post on Saudi Arabia’s secret quid pro quo deals with Russia and other states is here.

Beheadline goes viral

Saudi executioner sword

Was the alleged typo in our viral headline “Saudi Lose Bid to Behead of UN Human Rights Council” intentional, or not?

Autocorrect will do just the darnedest things when the word “Saudi” is in context?

One thing is sure: the faux typo caught the attention of the world’s leading news agencies, whose reporters posted it all over Twitter — turning a global spotlight on Saudi Arabia’s shockingly cruel system of gross and systematic human rights abuses.

The buzz sparked a feature debate on, which concluded: “Amazing UN Watch ‘typo’ regarding Saudi Arabia ‘has to be on purpose’.”

Here’s Henry Tricks, regional bureau chief in Mexico City of The Economist: Continue reading ‘Beheadline goes viral’

“Saudi Arabia Withdraws Its Alarming Candidacy,” reports Tribune de Genève

Pressure caused Saudi representative to backtracked, yet tensions remain

Translated from Tribune de Genève, June 8, 2015

By Alain Jourdan

Facing with an outcry over its candidacy, Saudi Arabia finally renounced its bid for the presidency of the Human Rights Council. Riyadh asked its representative to the UN in Geneva, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, to shelve his ambitions. The diplomat, who took up his post in 2014, had been campaigning for several weeks in the Asia group to become its candidate and secure his tenure as head of the Human Rights Council when the presidency rotates in 2016.

Despite this decision, the “puzzle” remains unsolved, commented a European diplomat. Finding someone to succeed the German Joachim Ruecker in the Asia group promises to be complicated to say the least. The position of president has great symbolic value. The effect would be disastrous for the Council if a representative were appointed from a country that is clearly at odds with the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Continue reading ‘“Saudi Arabia Withdraws Its Alarming Candidacy,” reports Tribune de Genève’

Saudis Lose Bid to Behead of the UN Human Rights Council

Saudi executioner swordBREAKING NEWS

GENEVA, June 4, 2015 - First, the good news: following UN Watch’s forceful protest campaign, covered in newspapers worldwide, Swiss TV is now reporting that Saudi Arabia has failed in its bid to be head of the UN Human Rights Council next year.

“Before we break out the champagne,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group, “the truth is that the presidency is mostly symbolic, yet the Saudi monarchy — a regime that is beheading more people than ever before — retains their power as a full voting member of the council.”

“The real question is why the U.S. or the EU refused to utter even one word of protest when we urged them, together with Saudi dissidents, to oppose the monarchy’s election in 2013? It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.”


Now, the bad news: The UNHRC today legitimized the Islamic fundamentalist regime by allowing it to play host to a “religious freedom” conference in Jeddah, a short stroll away from where they lashed blogger Raif Badawi for “insulting Islam.”

Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, is outraged.

UN Watch has the full story on today’s Jeddah farce here.






Farce: Saudi Arabia Hosting UN Human Rights Conference on Religious Freedom

UNHRC president Ruecker on right

UN Human Rights Council President (right) in Jeddah addressed
a Saudi-hosted conference on religious freedom

GENEVA, June 4, 2015 –  Despite its reputation as one the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, Saudi Arabia is now hosting in Jeddah a UN human rights conference on combating intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, attended by the president of the UN Human Rights Council and other top international representatives.

“It’s time for the politics of oil to stop trumping the basic principles of human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group.

“It’s bad enough that the oppressive and fundamentalist Saudi monarchy was elected to sit on the UN Human Rights Council. But for top UN human rights officials to now visit Jeddah and smile while human rights activist Raif Badawi languishes in prison for the crime of religious dissent, still under threat of further flogging, is to pour salt in the wounds. It’s astonishing.” Continue reading ‘Farce: Saudi Arabia Hosting UN Human Rights Conference on Religious Freedom’

UN Watch Condemns Saudi Bid to Head UN Rights Council, Urges World Leaders to Oppose “Oppressive, Fundamentalist Regime”

Saudi Salman and Ban

GENEVA, May 13, 2015 – The fundamentalist Saudi monarchy is seeking to head the world’s top human rights body, a move liable to be “the final nail in the coffin for the credibility of a body that already counts dictatorships like China, Cuba, and Russia as members, and whose top advisor is co-founder of the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group. 

“We urge U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini to denounce this despicable act of cynicism by a regime that beheads people in the town square, systematically oppresses women, Christians, and gays, and jails innocent bloggers like Raif Badawi for the crime of challenging the rulers’ radical brand of Wahabbist Islam.” Continue reading ‘UN Watch Condemns Saudi Bid to Head UN Rights Council, Urges World Leaders to Oppose “Oppressive, Fundamentalist Regime”’

UN adopts report praising Saudi Arabia’s human rights record

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer testified before the UN Human Rights Council today about its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on Saudi Arabia.

Mr. President, the purpose of this review is to apply scrutiny to every UN member state, in order to promote and protect human rights. Does this report on Saudi Arabia live up to this goal?

Let us consider by reading from the report.

Page 7:

“China commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote economic, social and cultural rights [and] welcomed efforts to promote dialogue and tolerance among religious groups.”

Page 9:

  • “Iraq commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote and protect human rights.”
  • “Jordan commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote and protect human rights.”
  • “Egypt welcomed Saudi Arabia’s work to strengthen the role of women.”
  • “Libya congratulated Saudi Arabia on acceding to conventions and its continued efforts to promote and protect human rights.”
  • “Malaysia welcomed Saudi Arabia’s progress in promoting women’s rights.”
  • “Mauritania welcomed progress towards equality and justice… efforts to enable the participation of women at all levels.

Page 11:

  • “Pakistan welcomed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect and promote women’s and children’s rights.”
  • “Somalia welcomed the high priority given to human rights, the harmonization of sharia law and international human rights law and the advancement of women’s rights.”

Page 12:

  • “Sri Lanka welcomed the efforts to promote women’s participation in public life.”
  • “The State of Palestine noted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect and promote human rights, [and] praised its accession to several instruments.”
  • “Turkey commended the increased women’s empowerment.”

Mr. President, are these words a fair representation of human rights in Saudi Arabia?


The truth is that there are zero women’s rights, zero religious rights, zero minority rights, zero human rights, in Saudi Arabia. The truth is that Saudi Arabia has an entrenched system of gender apartheid. The truth is that Saudi Arabia should never have been elected as a member of this Council.

Unless the words I have just quoted above are retracted, we urge the Council to reject this report.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Why Saudi Arabia should not be elected to the UN Rights Council – by Ali AhAlhmed

Today the UN will elect 14 out of 16 candidate countries to be new members of its top human rights body. UN Watch heads an international campaign of MPs and NGOs urging nations to oppose the election of Algeria, China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. The other candidates are France, Macedonia, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Uruguay. Click here for UN Watch’s comprehensive report, analysis and comment.

Following are the remarks of Saudi dissident Ali AlAhmed, delivered at UN headquarters on November 4, 2013, at a press conference organized by UN Watch and the Human Right Foundation.


The Saudi Monarchy is racist that bans blacks from senior government positions such as diplomats, judges, ministers, security  and military officers. Black women are banned form even being a school principal or to be on government television. The Saudi Monarchy views all blacks as slaves who are not suitable for leadership positions.

The Saudi Monarchy is the worst in its treatment of women as it legally considers them to be part human. Women do not enjoy a full and separate legal identity and are not allowed to represent themselves independently. They must be part of a male relative such as a wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, grandmother, mother, aunt of a certain male.

Women are not allowed basic rights such as education, healthcare, work, travel, legal papers, ownership of business without the written permission of their male masters.

The Saudi Monarchy also bans women form physical education and any organized sports or fitness activity. This has caused the death of thousands of women every year, and the illness of many others who suffer from disease linked to limited physical exercise such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity,  bone density problem, and psychological illness related to body image.

Continue reading ‘Why Saudi Arabia should not be elected to the UN Rights Council – by Ali AhAlhmed’

Comment on Saudi-Jordan Trade of UN Seats

GENEVA, November 8, 2013 – In reaction to news reports that Jordan’s pull-out from next week’s UN human rights council election was part of a deal that will see Jordan obtain the Security Council seat recently rejected by Saudi Arabia, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer issued the following comment:

It is appalling that seats on the world’s top human rights body are being traded like merchandise, treated as trinkets by non-democracies. We are witnessing backroom deals of the most cynical kind, which show contempt for the official UN membership criteria requiring that candidates be elected on the basis of their record in promoting and protecting human rights.

We call on UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to condemn such crass practices. We also reiterate our call upon U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign affairs commissioner Catherine Ashton to end their silence over the absurd, hypocritical and dangerous candidacies of dictatorships like China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia.” (Click here for full appeal.)

Top EU Legislators Appeal Against UNHRC Candidacies of China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam

Appeal Against Unworthy UN Human Rights Candidacies


We, the undersigned members of parliament, human rights activists and non-governmental organizations, call on you to publicly oppose the candidacies of Algeria, China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, for seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council, elections for which will be held on November 12, 2013. We urge you to take action to defeat these manifestly unworthy candidacies, which threaten to cast a shadow upon the reputation of the Council—and of the United Nations as a whole.

Candidates for the UN Human Rights Council, according to General Assembly Resolution 60/251, are supposed to be countries that “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Yet it is widely recognized that Algeria, China, Cuba Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam fail to meet these basic membership criteria. They have poor if not abysmal records on human rights protection at home, and on human rights promotion at the UN.

Rather than giving these non-democratic governments influence over vital decision on human rights, we urge you to introduce resolutions at the United Nations to hold these nations accountable, and to condemn their gross and systematic human rights violations.

Silence is complacency. For the sake of millions of victims worldwide who need a credible and effective international human rights body, please do not be silent.


Edward McMillan-Scott, MEP
European Parliament Vice-President for Human Rights & Democracy

Elmar Brok, MEP
Chair of Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP
Leader of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Former Prime Minister of Belgium

Continue reading ‘Top EU Legislators Appeal Against UNHRC Candidacies of China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam’

Human Rights Politicized at UN: Hillel Neuer on CTV

Sounding the alarm:  in an interview on Canada’s CTV, UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer calls on the U.S. and the EU to end their silence over the UN’s planned election next week of the world’s worst abusers to its highest human rights body.

Full text: Gulf states endorse Saudi reasons for snubbing UNSC seat

Below are the statements by the Gulf Cooperation Council and Qatar supporting the underlying reasons invoked by Saudi Arabia in rejecting the Security Council seat it just won.

GCC Secretary General Praises Saudi Call for Security Council’s Reform

Riyadh, October 19 (QNA) – GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani has praised Saudi Arabia’s call for reform of the UN Security Council and enabling it to carry out its duties and assume its responsibilities towards maintaining international peace and security effectively and practically in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

In a statement released today, Dr. Al Zayani underlined the importance of Saudi Arabia’s call for the realization of a fundamental reform of the Security Council’s system, to support its role as the United Nations body responsible for all the major consequences of the global peace and security issues, especially that our today’s world is in dire need of the Security Council’s role, and its global legitimacy under the shadow of the expanding political and security turmoil.

He said despite international stature given by the membership of the Security Council , the apology Saudi Arabia to accept the membership of the Council because of its inability to perform its duties and carry out its responsibilities , especially towards Arab issues, stems from the historical interest of the Kingdom in the concerns of Arab nation issues, the stability of its regional neighborhood also from interest in international issues and global stability, for which the Security Council shoulders the main responsibility.

Zayani considered the position of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has expressed its commitment to international legality and it keen desire to activate the role of the Security Council, the UN agencies and its various institutions, in order to achieve global calls in this regard, and to make the world more cooperative, stable and secure.

The Saudi Kingdom announced yesterday it has apologized from joining the UN Security Council after being elected a non-permanent member of the Council for two years, justifying its apology by saying that the way and mechanisms of action, the current double standards in the Security Council prevent the Council from performing its duties and assume its responsibilities towards maintaining world security and peace and as required. It said that led to the continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the grievances of peoples, usurpation of rights, and the proliferation of conflicts and wars around the world.

Qatar Agrees with Saudi Decision to Turn Down Security Council Seat

​Doha, October 19 (QNA) – The State of Qatar agrees with the reasons outlined by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to turn down a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, an official source from the Foreign Ministry said, adding that many nations and peoples agree with those reasons, especially the Council’s inaction on the Palestinian and Syrian issues.

The source, in a statement to Qatar News Agency (QNA), added that Qatar hopes that the international organization and its various organs, especially the Security Council will be able to fulfill its duties and lofty goals in achieving justice and upholding international peace and security.

Why did Columbia’s SIPA aid and abet misogynist Saudis?

Whether Saudi Arabia takes the seat it just won on the UN Security Council or not, human rights groups all agree: it was a scandal for the brutally misogynistic, intolerant, homophobic, anti-Christian, Judeophobic, Wahabist regime ever to have been elected in the first place.

Which ought to raise an ethical question for Columbia University’s prestigious  School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA): Was it right for the school to design a year-long “Saudi Arabia UN Security Council Executive Studies Program” — exclusively for Saudi officials — to help the bigoted regime promote its interests on the world stage?

When SIPA heard that the world’s most misogynistic regime sought a seat on the UNSC, why was their first reaction not like that of the human rights groups —  to strongly protest?

How much money and other benefits did Columbia and SIPA get from the Saudis for giving them special courses, which included training in “Managing the Media and Public Relations” by Professor Kristian Denny Todd?

It’s one thing for a school to allow any student to attend a course — and quite another to design an entire program for a regime notorious worldwide for gross and systematic human rights abuses. If Columbia did what LSE did with the Qaddafi regime, should the relevant Columbia officials resign, as LSE’s did?

Should universities operate under the same ethical guidelines as Washington lobbyists?


First Quarter 1/30 – 4/13

Foreign Policies of the UN Security Council P-5 Countries– Professor Stuart Gottlieb

Collective Security and the Role of the Security Council – Professor Elisabeth Lindenmayer

Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and the Role of the UN– Professor Zachery Metz

Communications Skills – Professor Joann Baney

Second Quarter 5/7 – 7/20

Sanctions and the Security Council- Professor Loraine Rickard Martin

Globalization and its Implications- Professor Arvid Lukauskas

Leadership, Team-building and Personnel Management Skills- Professor William Eimicke

UN Peacekeeping- Professor Lindenmayer

Third Quarter

Attend Sessions at UN General Assembly in New York City (Institute supervised) – Prof. Al Dehayel

Site Visits to Public, Private and NGO “Organizations of Management Excellence,”  organized and supervised by Picker Center- Professor William Eimicke

Fourth Quarter 10/1- 12/14

International Crisis Management and the Role of the UN- Professor Richard Greenwald

The United Nations and Current Issues in International Economics, Finance and Human Development- Professor Rivera-Batiz

Current Issues in International Politics- Arvid Lukauskas

Managing the Media and Public Relations- Professor Kristian Denny Todd

Full Text: Arab UN Reps Urge Saudis to Accept UNSC Seat

Following is the statement issued today in New York by the Arab Group at the UN:

The Arab Group, at level of Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York, discussed in an extraordinary fashion, the situation regarding the position of the Brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding their Membership in the Security Council. With our understanding and respect for the position of the Brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we hope that they, which are amongst the blessed who represent the Arab and Islamic world at this important and historical stage, specifically for the Middle East region, to maintain their Membership in the Security Council and continue their brave role in defending our issues specifically at the rostrum of the Security Council. Continue reading ‘Full Text: Arab UN Reps Urge Saudis to Accept UNSC Seat’

Full Text: Saudi Statement Rejecting UN Security Council Seat

Below is the full text of today’s Saudi statement. Click here for UN Watch’s reaction, declaring the Saudi pull-out a “victory for human rights.”


Foreign Ministry Makes Statement on Saudi Arabia’s Apology for Not Accepting Security Council Membership

Riyadh, Dhu-AlHijjah 13, 1434, Oct 18, 2013, SPA – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement after the election of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a non- permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for two years. Following is the text of the statement:

First of all, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is pleased to extend its sincere thanks and deep gratitude to all countries that have given their confidence to elect it as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the next two years. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a founding member of the United Nations, is proud of its full and permanent commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, believing that commitment of all Member States, honestly, truthfully and accurately, as agreed upon and stipulated in the Charter is the real guarantee for world security and peace.

If the Member States of the United Nations consider wining the membership of UN Security Council, which is, according to the Charter of the Organization, the sole agency responsible for preserving world peace and security, as a high honor and a great responsibility for participating directly and effectively in the service of international issues, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that the manner, the mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities towards preserving international peace and security as required, leading to the continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against the peoples, the violation of rights and the spread of conflicts and wars around the world. Continue reading ‘Full Text: Saudi Statement Rejecting UN Security Council Seat’

NGO: Saudi Arabia refusal to take seat on UN Security Council is “victory for human rights”

UN Watch now calls on Saudis to drop bid for next month’s election to Human Rights Council

GENEVA, October 18, 2013 –Saudi Arabia’s refusal to take its seat on the UN Security Council, announced today via the Saudi Press Agency, is a “victory for human rights,” said a Geneva-based human rights group today.

“A country whose legal system routinely lashes women rape victims rather than punish the perpetrators never belonged in the UN Security Council in the first place,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, which has for years reported on Saudi Arabia’s oppression of women and its other gross human rights abuses.

UN Watch also noted that Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist terrorist groups (see below), and was an “absurd choice” to legislate for the world on combating terrorism.

“While the Saudi statement invoked UN ‘double standards’ as their grounds for refusal, the truth is that Saudi Arabia’s entire system is a double standard. Under Saudi law and practice, there is one standard for men, and another for women, who cannot vote, drive a car, or travel without a male guardian; one for Muslims, and another for Christians, 53 of whom who were arrested this year by religious police for praying in a private home; one for heterosexuals, and another for gays, where homosexuality is punishable by death, and where gays have been publicly beheaded,” said Neuer. Continue reading ‘NGO: Saudi Arabia refusal to take seat on UN Security Council is “victory for human rights”’

Saudi Arabia to win UN Security Council seat

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Today the U.N. General Assembly will elect five new members to the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body.
According to AP, all five candidates are virtually guaranteed to win a seat since there are no contested races. Among them is Saudi Arabia—a country renowned for its human rights abuses.
If elected, Saudi Arabia will serve a two-year term on the Council as one of 10 non-permanent members and alongside five permanent members with veto power.
Council members have the power to shape UN action on international peace and security, as well as on hot-button human rights and humanitarian issues, such as protection of civilians in wartime, the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, international justice, and counter-terrorism and human rights.

Vice-Chair of UN Rights Panel Works for Saudi Gov’t, Defends Misogyny

What the UN forgot to mention today is that the Vice-Chair of the committee accusing Israel of violating children’s rights works for the Saudi government and has a despicable record of apologetics for her country’s misogyny.

About half the members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child come from non-democracies, many of whom take unfriendly or hostile positions against Israel at the UN, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Russia.

Although the Committee on the Rights of the Child is supposed to be made up of independent, objective and professional experts on human rights, Vice-Chair Aseil Al-Shehail — like too many of her peers on the panel — is none of those things. Continue reading ‘Vice-Chair of UN Rights Panel Works for Saudi Gov’t, Defends Misogyny’

Dissidents propose draft resolutions for world’s ignored emergencies

The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy took place on March 13, 2012, organized by UN Watch and an international coalition of 20 NGOs. The Summit, which ran in parallel to the main session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, produced alternative draft resolutions for the Council to consider. These deal with urgent human rights situaitons that have so far been ignored by the international community. These are:

Rights of Women in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran

UN Watch Testimony to UN Human Rights Council, Agenda Item 3, delivered by Alexia Bedat, 15 September 2011

Thank you, Madam President.

Under Articles 2, 5 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women are guaranteed equal treatment under the law and protection from degrading treatment. Today we ask: Is this promise being translated into practice?

To find the answer, we must see reality from the perspective of real women on the ground. Let us consider three concrete examples:

1. China. According to a panel of experts including US Congressman Chris Smith, as a result of the “One child policy,” every 2.4 seconds a woman in China undergoes a forced abortion.  Xiao Ai Ying is one of these women. Last year, eight months into her pregnancy, twelve government officials broke into her home, brutally kicked her in the stomach and dragged her screaming to the hospital.  Madam President, isn’t China a member of this Council, and therefore pledged to the highest standards of human rights? Continue reading ‘Rights of Women in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran’

Say No to Iran & Saudis Leading U.N. Women’s Rights Agency

50554_155483681160666_7408031_n.jpg Speak out for women who are hanged, lashed and stoned to death: go to this web page and click “Like.”



Authoritarian States: “Traditional Values” Justify Repression of Gays, Women; Russian Draft Resolution Backs Claim

During today’s session at the UN Human Rights Council, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia justified their repression of gays and women with the argument that human rights should be based on “morals” and “traditional values” rather than universal principles of individual rights. Continue reading ‘Authoritarian States: “Traditional Values” Justify Repression of Gays, Women; Russian Draft Resolution Backs Claim’

UN Watch Statement on Saudi Arabian Treatment of Women

Below is a statement that UN Watch intended to deliver today at the U.N. Human Rights Council’s session to adopt the periodic report on Saudi Arabia’s rights record, but Continue reading ‘UN Watch Statement on Saudi Arabian Treatment of Women’

Saudi women’s tales horrify UN


Members of Saudi delegation


Friday, January 18, 2008
Canwest News Service

Members of a United Nations women’s rights panel sat aghast yesterday as women in a Saudi delegation defended their status in their country without a hint of irony.

Marking Saudi Arabia’s first appearance before the panel, the team seemed oblivious to the fact the testimony flew in the face of internationally declared standards.

“Women are flourishing in different areas …” said Dr. Lubna Al-Ansari, one of the many women Saudi Arabia dispatched to testify before the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

“We can travel on our own. For instance, for me, I have permission from my husband, so I can move freely and go wherever I want.”

Another delegate defended Saudi Arabia’s ban on driving for women by saying it’s a legacy of history.

“In ancient times, there were no cars. Women used to ride camels and donkeys. They used to participate in all kinds of transportation,” the delegate explained. “When mentalities are ready, women will be able to drive cars.”

A male member of the Saudi delegation focused on Saudi laws allowing polygamy, saying they restrict the number of wives a man can take to four.

“A man who is not confident about treating his women fairly should marry only one woman,” he said. “One reason for polygamy is that the husband may have a strong sexual desire, and maybe just one woman will not necessarily fulfill all his desire.”

He also described polygamy as “humanitarian” because it gives more women opportunities to marry and “covers the expenses” of more of them.


Committee members shot back, accusing Saudi Arabia of failing to meet international norms that guarantee women’s economic, political and civil rights.

“Only when women are free to make their decisions on all aspects of their life, are they full citizens,” committee member Maria Regina Tavares told the session in Geneva.

Saudi Arabia ratified the 1979 women’s rights treaty that the committee oversees eight years ago – but with the proviso that

Islamic Sharia law would prevail if there were conflict between the two.

With a team of more than 45, the Saudi government made its case with one of the biggest delegations ever to turn up for such a hearing.

The monitoring group UN Watch said the Saudi delegation had masked the “pervasive discrimination” against women in the desert kingdom.

“Many of the responses speak for themselves,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based group.

The hearing took place on the heels of a rape case that focused international attention on the plight of women in Saudi Arabia. In that case, the country’s King Abdullah eventually pardoned the 19-year-old rape victim, who’d been sentenced to lashes by Saudi Arabia’s powerful Islamic clerics because she had been in the company of a man unrelated to her.

“Instead of sending massive delegations to the UN to pretend that Saudi women are not treated like chattel, Riyadh should focus on reforming the kind of discriminatory laws that sentence women rape victims to lashes,” Neuer added.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008