Twilight Zone: Who best to run UN human rights panel than death penalty enthusiast?

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam
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. ©
In pure Orwellian fashion UN officials appointed a Saudi official to chair a human right panel, calling on the most repressive of all nations to monitor human rights violations at an international level. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

If the United Nations has arguably become an empty shell of an organization, no more than a tool in the hands of a powerful political elite, its most recent decision to appoint Saudi Arabia's Ambassador at the UN in Geneva, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, as chair of a prominent UN human rights panel has left many observers dumbfounded.

While it would be unfair of course to blame Ambassador Trad for his country’s liberal use of the death penalty, his office certainly represents those policies and as such, the UN might have wanted to consider the fact that the kingdom remains one of the most repressive, and punishing regimes in existence before appointing one of its officials to such a position.

A reactionary theocracy build around the Wahhabi school of thought - a religious devolution which claims itself to be the only pure expression of Islam - Saudi Arabia's love affair with oppression and repression has inspired, and to a degree gave license to the likes of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other Wahhabi-inspired radical terror groups.

However one chooses to look at Saudi Arabia, whether one agrees or not with its belief system or even its judicial make-up, the kingdom nevertheless stands in negation of the founding principles of the United Nations; especially when human rights are concerned.

The very idea that the kingdom could be called on by the UN to not only represent but champion issues related to human rights is preposterous; it somewhat exempted Saudi Arabia from answering to its own crimes and violations of international law.

While the UN has been keen to keep Ambassador Trad's appointment quiet, most likely to avoid a media storm, especially since the kingdom is currently engaged in a genocidal military campaign in Yemen, UN Watch, an independent campaigning NGO, was able to confirm that Ambassador Trad was indeed elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council on September 17.

But here is where it becomes scary: As head of a five-strong group of diplomats, Trad would have the power to appoint human rights experts and thus charge them with running investigations on behalf of the UN where it has a mandate on human rights.

The UN handed a Saudi official, the representative of a country which to this very day hands out death penalty sentences as one would do candy on Halloween, the power to determine, identify and denounce human rights abuses at an international level.

If the kingdom can sentence its people to the death penalty by beheading, crucifixion and other niceties without batting an eyelid how exactly do we expect one of its officials will look on human rights violations in other countries?

But that’s not where the crazy train stops. The UN would have offered Ambassador Trad the position as a consolation prize after the kingdom was dropped from its bid to become president of the entire 47-nation human rights council.

While UN officials should be pressuring Saudi Arabia to abide by the rule of law, denouncing its government's abuses whenever and wherever they arise, they have instead chosen to court its billions of dollars, thus whitewashing crimes against humanity for financial largess.

As UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer put it: “It is scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel … Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.

Driving his outrage further home, Neuer added, “This UN appointment is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief, and underscores the credibility deficit of a human rights council."

While few countries can claim to have a pristine record when it comes to human rights - abuses are sadly symptomatic of our human condition, electing those who are most brutal to protect human rights principles is borderline idiotic - if not criminal.

Has the UN forgotten all about the likes of Raif Badawi or Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr who both were subjected to brutal corporal punishments for their criticism of the regime? Can the UN really turn a blind eye to the abuses and acts of torture currently being perpetuated in the prisons of Saudi Arabia on account its princes have money and oil to throw around?

Has the UN become another naysayer before the rich elite? In which case, what authority or even legitimacy can the organization really claim? As far as Ensaf Badawi, the wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, is concerned not much.

Reacting to the appointment of Ambassador Trad on her Facebook account she wrote that the UN's appointment of Trad to lead the human rights panel was like giving Riyadh "a green light to start flogging again."

Notwithstanding the fact that Raif Badawi was condemned to receive 1,000 lashes and serve a 10-year prison sentence for allegedly "insulting Islam" the kingdom has, according to Amnesty International, arranged for the killing of a recorded 2,200 people between January 1985 and June 2015.

That's an awful lot of blood for the UN to look passed ...

Saudi Arabia has single-handedly trampled over more human rights principles than the world care to admit - from freedom of speech to free movement and of course freedom of religion, the kingdom has been built on a legacy of blood and persecution.

Can we please bring back sanity to politics!


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.