This morning at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Saudi Arabia tried three times to stop the Center for Inquiry (CFI) from delivering a statement criticizing the country for its human rights violations.
Our statement, delivered by volunteer representative Josephine Macintosh, condemned Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on freedom of religion, belief, and expression, highlighting the cases of jailed rights activists Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair. We also raised the obvious tension between Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices and its membership on the UN Human Rights Council.
Saudi Arabia interrupted Macintosh three separate times to complain that her statement was “unacceptable” and “completely outside” the parameters of debate.
Ultimately, however, the Saudi efforts were denied. Four member states — Canada, France, Ireland, and the United States — spoke out in support of Center for Inquiry’s right to deliver the statement. Even more to the point, UN Human Rights Council Vice President Katerina Sequensova responded that “speakers are expected to raise issues or comment on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, including a human rights situation at a country level.” She informed Saudi Arabia that it should use the mechanism which allows the country the right to reply.
Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia did not use its right of reply — which suggests it was interested only in intimidating CFI from calling attention to the cases of Badawi and al-Khair, and noting the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia being a member of the UN Human Rights Council while denying basic human rights to its citizens.
You can download our statement here (PDF).