Saudi Arabia Tries to Silence Center for Inquiry at Meeting of UN Human Rights Council

For Immediate Release: June 23, 2014
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


Secular Humanists Condemn Kingdom’s Human Rights Abuses, Right to Speak Supported by Other Member States

Saudi Arabia tried three times today to silence the Center for Inquiry at the United Nations Human Rights Council today, attempting to stop CFI’s representative from addressing Saudi Arabia’s zealous persecution of dissidents and its sweeping crackdown on fundamental human rights.

See the video here:

CFI representative Josephine Macintosh delivered a statement to the Human Rights Council in Geneva condemning Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on freedom of religion, belief, and expression, highlighting the cases of two jailed human rights activists in particular: Raif Badawi, guilty of running a website that advocated for free expression, and now sentenced to 10 years and 1000 lashes; and Waleed Abu al-Khair, Badawi’s lawyer, arrested under the Saudi Arabia’s antiterrorism law for allegedly harming the country’s reputation.

Macintosh also highlighted the glaring tension between Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights practices and its membership on the UN Human Rights Council, a body tasked with protecting and upholding the very rights that Saudi Arabia abuses.

But as she gave her statement, the representative from Saudi Arabia on three separate occasions interrupted Ms. Macintosh, demanding that the Human Rights Council Vice President Kateřina Seqeunsova shut down the discussion. Other member states would not allow Saudi Arabia to silence Ms. Macintosh, with representatives from the United States, Ireland, Canada, and France expressing their support for the right of Ms. Macintosh, CFI, and other NGOs to speak. Vice President Seqeunsova agreed on each occasion, requesting that Saudi Arabia save its objections until the time reserved for its right of reply, which it did not take advantage of. 

“We call on Saudi Arabia, as a newly elected member of this council, to release Raif Badawi immediately and unconditionally, and drop any pending charges against him and others for ‘blasphemy,’ ‘insulting Islam,’ or ‘apostasy,’” CFI declared in its statement. “If it is to retain any credibility as a member, we urge it to reform its laws so as to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, cease the use of corporeal punishment, and repeal Article 1 of its interior ministry’s degree defining atheism as terrorism.” The complete statement is available at a PDF here:

“Saudi Arabia tried to bully us into keeping quiet about its horrendous human rights record with repeated, cynical procedural obstructions,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s main UN representative, and recently elected president of the UN’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. “But neither we nor our allies among the Human Rights Committee’s member states will allow them to silence us as they have tried to silence dissenters in their own country. We are proud of Josephine Macintosh for remaining firm in the face of Saudi Arabia’s intimidations, and we are very grateful to the four member states that spoke out on our behalf. Saudi Arabia’s violations of fundamental human rights must be known and condemned by the entire civilized world.” 

Video of what transpired is here:

The CFI statement to the Committee is here:

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at