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A Joke That’s No Laughing Matter: Saudi Arabia Sits on the UN Human Rights Council

October 22nd, 2018 · 8 Comments

Could the United Nations disgrace itself any more?

No one has apparently noticed or dared to remind the world … until my pointing it out now  … that the current world focus for its brutal, murderous conduct … Saudi Arabia … is an honoured member of the UN’s Human Rights Council!

I say “honoured” because the UN General Assembly ELECTS the members of UNHRC, a body “responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.”

Clearly the UN General Assembly has a sense of humour.

Saudi Arabia … despite its DECADES-LONG record of human rights violations, including intimidation, imprisonment, beatings, kidnappings, assassinations, torture of critics, protesters,  political opponents, women’s rights advocates,  homosexuals, even bloggers … with thousands subjected public floggings, limb amputations and executions by beheadings  and even stoning …. was elected to the UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL  by the UN General Assembly in 2016 and will sit there until 2019.

That’s no joke!

“A recent report by the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) shows that the number of beheadings in the kingdom during the first quarter of 2018 rose by over 70 percent compared to the same period last year,” according to Wikipedia.

And let me remind you what I wrote about Saudi Arabia just weeks ago, after Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland did the honourable thing and denounced Saudi brutality and inhumanity”

“In the latest cases, which finally drew condemnation from the Canadian government, the Saudis have jailed two women’s rights activists, Samar Badawi and Nassim al-Sadah. For daring to suggest women deserve equal rights! Despicable!!
But there’s more. Clearly the Saudi government/establishment is trying to send a wider harsher message
As CBC has reported: “Badawi is the sister of Raif Badawi, a Saudi dissident blogger who has been imprisoned by the Saudi government since 2012 on charges of apostasy and “insulting Islam through electronic channels.”
Think about that. Raif has been imprisoned in a Saudi prison for SIX YEARS for blogging his ideas! And he has also been sentenced to 1,000 LASHES … still to be carried out.”

That is some sick example for the world by a UN Human Rights Council member supposedly involved in defending human rights!

The truth is the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul Oct 2 was just another in a long line of barbaristic acts by Saudi authorities … just another victim who would go unnoticed or soon forgotten, I bet they thought, under-estimating the outrage the killing of a well-known internationally-known commentator and Washington Post columnist would evoke.

No one is laughing now.

And frankly, the latest BIG LIE …. there have been many …. emanating from Saudi authorities saying Jamal died in a sudden unexpected brawl at the consulate … disgraces not only the Saudis (they seem to be used to that by now) but also the UN Human Rights Council they were elected to sit on!

The truth, though, is the UNHRC has long been dishonoured by many who sit on it, so UN apologists cannot argue that Saudi Arabia is just the one bad example among 47 states on the Council.   Because other current UNHRC members include China, Cuba, Hungary, Iraq, Qatar, Pakistan and Venezuela … all of them serious human rights abusers … yet ELECTED to the UNHRC by the General Assembly. Total disgrace!

Trust ANY of those to defend and promote human rights?  Maybe it IS a joke?  But it’s budget … more than $200 million dollars a year is not.

Readers of this blog will know I am NO fan of President Donald Trump. But I was HAPPY to see the US take a stand and withdraw its support and funding from the UNHRC in June … after years of watching the organization regularly and repeatedly pass resolutions condemning Israel, but somehow staying silent on violations by Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon or horrific barbaric actions in countries sitting right there on the UNHRC..

“Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council,” said Haley, listing US grievances with the body. “The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape its scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in its ranks,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley said at the time.

Bravo!

Too bad Canada has not followed suit … probably because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still determined to score a UN Security Council seat for Canada as part of his personal political legacy.

Unfortunately, despite the US withdrawal the UNHRC is NOT getting better: among those the General Assembly voted just a week ago to install for the 2019-2022 term are: the Philippines, Bahrain, India, Somalia, Cameroon and Bangladesh … ALL of these with VERY questionable human rights records.

Don’t take my word for it: read what the left-leaning newspaper The Guardian reported:  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/11/eritrea-joining-human-rights-council-membership-undermine-work-hrc.

And here’s how even the Philippines Star reported the prospect of that country being appointed to the Council just days before it happened:

“UN member countries should show their outrage at the Philippines and Eritrea by leaving two spots on the ballot sheet blank and keeping them off the council,” Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday.
“Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive ‘war on drugs’ has been a killing frenzy that has left thousands dead,” he said.

They didn’t …. so along with the existing and new members, some of the world’s worst murderers, abusers and torturers will continue to sit on and make a mockery of the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Which is so sad … at a time when a REAL world-wide defender and promoter of human rights is needed more than ever.

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: follow me @harveyoberfeld on Twitter to get First Alerts of all new postings on this blog.)

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Jamal Khashoggi Tribute

October 18th, 2018 · 27 Comments

As a tribute to Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post columnist and renowned Mid-East journalist and commentator, murdered in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2nd, I humbly turn over my space to reprint his final piece, published in The Washington Post Thursday:

Opinions
Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression

By Jamal Khashoggi
October 17 at 7:52 PM

A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor
I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”

As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before.

My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press.  He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.

As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.

There are a few oases that continue to embody the spirit of the Arab Spring. Qatar’s government continues to support international news coverage, in contrast to its neighbors’ efforts to uphold the control of information to support the “old Arab order.” Even in Tunisia and Kuwait, where the press is considered at least “partly free,” the media focuses on domestic issues but not issues faced by the greater Arab world. They are hesitant to provide a platform for journalists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. Even Lebanon, the Arab world’s crown jewel when it comes to press freedom, has fallen victim to the polarization and influence of pro-Iran Hezbollah.

The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar. In 1967, the New York Times and The Post took joint ownership of the International Herald Tribune newspaper, which went on to become a platform for voices from around the world.

My publication, The Post, has taken the initiative to translate many of my pieces and publish them in Arabic. For that, I am grateful. Arabs need to read in their own language so they can understand and discuss the various aspects and complications of democracy in the United States and the West. If an Egyptian reads an article exposing the actual cost of a construction project in Washington, then he or she would be able to better understand the implications of similar projects in his or her community.
The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.

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(Note from H.O.   The world must NOT let the murder of Jamal go unsolved, unpunished or simply fade away. All of us around the world … citizens, journalists, bloggers … must keep up the pressure on governments, higher learning institutions, human rights organizations, business corporations and even religious leaders to not rest or conduct any future affairs with Saudi Arabia until justice is done for Jamal … and his body is returned to his family, and the civilized world, for proper burial.)

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