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Dear Readers, consider this a mere update on my two previous posts about two young men being held in Saudi jails and who may either executed by flogging; e.g., one given the rest of his 1,000 lashes upon a bare back by a long, thin cane, and the other, much younger at only 15, who can continue to stew in a another stinking Saudi cell anticipating, firstly, being beheaded and then crucified.

Now then.

Why is this man laughing?
UNHumanRightsAmbassadorPresentationFaisal-Trad-1024x683

[Left: Faisal Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Geneva, has been elected Chair of the UN Human Rights Council panel that appoints independent experts.  Right: Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva.]

The UN has been criticised for handing Saudi Arabia a key human rights role – despite the country having “arguably the worst record in the world” on freedoms for women, minorities and dissidents.

Critics labelled the appointment of Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, “scandalous”, saying it meant “oil trumps human rights”.

“It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.

“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons.”

UN Watch, an independent campaigning NGO, revealed Mr Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council.

As head of a five-strong group of diplomats, the influential role would give Mr Trad the power to select applicants from around the world for scores of expert roles in countries where the UN has a mandate on human rights.

Such experts are often described as the “crown jewels” of the HRC, according to UN Watch, which has obtained official UN documents, dated 17 September, confirming the appointment.

Ensaf Haidar, the wife of imprisoned pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi – sentenced to 1,000 lashes for blogging about free speech – also said the appointment was effectively “a green light to start flogging [him] again”.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said the appointment, made in June but unreported until now, may have been a consolation prize for the Saudis after they withdrew their bid to head the 47-nation council following international condemnation of the kingdom’s human rights record.

The Saudis’ bid emerged shortly after it posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners, to cope with what Amnesty International branded a “macabre spike” in the use of capital punishment, including beheadings, this year. [Emphasis mine]

The HRC, the UN body responsible for promoting human rights around the world, has long been the subject of criticism for granting membership to countries with dubious human rights records. As well as Saudi Arabia, current members include China, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela.

Mr Neuer described the appointment as “scandalous”.

“Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi,” he said.

“It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.

“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons.”

In the USA, The Weekly Standard skewered Mr. Trad’s appointment this way:

“He promises to be a hands-on chairman, unless he crosses his monarch and becomes hands-off.  Our former Secretary of State, familiar of course with Saudi attitudes towards women, has at this writing declined to accuse the Kingdom and, now the U.N., of waging a war on women, and a highly successful one at that.”

UN Watch’s Mr. Hillel Neuer went on to say:  “We cannot forget that the U.S. and the EU refused to utter a 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.

It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons, like human rights activist Raif Badawi.

Although The White House has announced almost exuberantly that homosexual priests will be invited to a White House function honoring Pope Benedict, no one seems available for comment on this matter.

Some might view this as odd.

Many will recall that Mr. Obama and his wife cut short a trade-centered trip to India, the world’s largest Westminster-modeled democracy [1,251,695,584 souls (July 2015 est.)] to fly to Saudi Arabia for the funeral of the former autocratic Saudi King and to meet his successor, yes, yet another autocrat.

ObamaWithNewSaudiKingInJanuary[Michelle and Barack Obama were greeted at Riyadh’s airport by King Salman]

As my former senior partner said to me about the art of negotiation, “everyone’s priorities emerge eventually, do they not?

Right again, Peter, right again.

Then there’s that other Peter, Pete Seeger, who asked what today seems an even more pertinent question than when he first asked it all those years ago:

…how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

As always, your comments are most warmly welcomed.

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Hat-Tips:

The Independent (Londonhttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/anger-after-saudi-arabia-chosen-to-head-key-un-human-rights-panel-10509716.html?origin=internalSearch

The Weekly Standard  http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/if-you-are-insufficiently-aware-depressing-news-please-consider_1034054.html

UN Watch  http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/2015/09/20/saudi-arabia-wins-bid-to-behead-of-un-human-rights-council-panel/

BBC London http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31001332

Peter Paul & Mary (Peter Yarrow, (Noel) Paul Stookey & Mary Travers)