Saudi Arabia should be dropped from UN Human Rights Council, say British lawyers

Saudi Arabia should be dropped from UN Human Rights Council, say British lawyers

- in All News
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Desert kingdom’s membership of key body expires in 2019

A campaign to remove Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council has been launched by a group of British lawyers, who argue the desert kingdom’s membership of the body is “contradictory and ironic”.

Saudi Arabia, whose seat on the council expires in 2019, has faced international condemnation for its role in the Yemen conflict.

It is also accused of crackdowns on political dissidents as well as having deeply conservative laws on issues including homosexuality and women’s rights.

In a report, London-based lawyers Rodney Dixon QC and Lord Kenneth Donald John Macdonald said suspending Saudi Arabia from the body would “act as a major lever for the government to clean up their act and make a proper new start”.

They raised the plight of 60 political activists and peace campaigners who the human rightslawyers said were detained in September last year.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mr Dixon said it was “completely contradictory and ironic for a government with systemic patterns of abuse – as we have highlighted in the report – to be sitting on the council, and in fact previously to have chaired the council”.

The report said: “Those detained have not been charged with any offence, and the information about the reasons for their arrests and circumstances of their imprisonment are very limited.”

Yemen has been torn apart by three years of conflict between the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthi.

More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict, which has also triggered the world’s largest cholera epidemic, starvation and other diseases.

Saudi-led air strikes – which in some cases have targeted hospitals and funeral gatherings – have killed thousands of civilians.

Human Rights Watch has previously criticised the decision to keep Saudi Arabia on the UNHCR, saying it raised questions about the integrity of the group.

Labour’s Fabian Hamilton, a shadow foreign minister, said it would be “entirely right that Saudi Arabia’s position on the United Nations Human Rights Council be reviewed”.

He told The Independent: “Due to its clear targeting of civilians in Yemen, causing many to die from starvation and a humanitarian catastrophe, it has become clear that Saudi Arabia’s position on the Human Rights Council is unsustainable and inherently contradictory.”

The UNHCR comprises 47 members distributed by region. Thirteen places go to Asia-Pacific states including China and Philippines, which themselves have faced global criticism for poor human rights records.

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