Saudi battles damaged reputation, loses bid to become UNHRC member

by MCR Correspondent
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Saudi Arabia has failed in its bid to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the next three-year term.

China, Russia and Cuba were elected on Tuesday October 13, 2020, in a vote that caused an outcry among human rights defenders.

Saudi Arabia and China vied for membership in a five-nation race for four spots with Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Nepal.

Pakistan received 169 votes, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia 90 votes – ending Riyadh’s bid to again be a member of the UN’s top human rights body.

Human Rights Watch has described China and Saudi Arabia as “two of the world’s most abusive governments“.

The New York-based group also singled out numerous war crimes in the Syrian war as making Russia a highly problematic candidate.

Experts say with a number of countries with questionable rights records being elected, the current system of entry to UNHRC is in serious need of reform.

Kevin Jon Heller, professor of international law at the University of Copenhagen, said, “Of course it is regrettable that countries with such terrible human rights records can be elected to the council. But that is the nature of the UN’s messy bureaucracy.

“There is simply no way to avoid the kinds of backroom deals that result in outcomes like this. There is simply no evidence that countries take human rights records into account when they vote.”

Tuesday’s vote indicated how damaged Saudi Arabia’s international reputation has become in recent years.

Critics have long denounced Riyadh’s human rights record. In recent years, authorities have rounded up hundreds of perceived political opponents, detained more than a dozen women’s rights activists, and continued mass prisoner executions.

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