UNHRC vote on Russia out, Saudi Arabia in — ‘shocking and shameful’

© Mike Segar
The UNHRC has become a political body whose decisions have nothing to do with human rights; it is used by western governments as an instrument and fig leaf to cover what they are doing following their political agendas, analysts told RT.

Russia lost its membership in the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, after it failed to garner enough votes in the elections to the body at the general assembly.

Saudi Arabia was successfully re-elected, despite its domestic and external human rights record. Beheadings are common practice in the country, where more than 150 people were killed this way in 2015 alone, according to numerous human rights organizations. 

RT asked analysts whether it was a fair decision, given Riyadh's record.

According to Daoud Khairallah, International Law professor at Georgetown University, “it is absolutely shocking.”

He noted that members of the general assembly, who voted for countries to be represented in the Human Rights Council, are not just ordinary people from the street who could have fallen victim to the “huge propaganda machine that is trying to distort reality.” On the contrary, he said, these people are “in the know” and they “should know at least the records of countries that they are re-electing as members to the UNHRC.”

“It absolutely defies any logic that a country like Saudi Arabia — with a consistent record of violating international law, any kind of civil law inside the kingdom and beyond, a promoter of terrorism” — is being re-elected a member of the human rights body, said Khairallah.

It is also “shocking,” he went on, that the US is supporting Riyadh, given that only recently the American Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto on a bill allowing the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the terrorist plot.

Despite so many voices in the US and elsewhere in the world saying that Saudi Arabia “has been a promoter of terrorism,” it is Russia that is being punished.

[Russia] is almost singlehandedly, with some allies, trying to fight terrorism in Syria, and calling on the whole world to fight terrorism – it should be punished for that. Those countries who are voting, who are casting such votes, do they realize what they are doing to the moral authority of this organ that is called the UN Human Rights Council? Do they know what they are doing to the UN’s credibility and moral authority? It is really shocking and shameful for those who have voted for it!”  Khairallah concluded. 

Willy Van Damme, investigative journalist says that the UNHRC is a political body whose decisions “never have anything to do with human rights.” But politics must be put aside on such matters.

“Human rights are human rights, and politics should stay out of it. But the [UNHRC] is made of countries, and their decisions are not based on human rights: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, whoever – they are not interested in human rights. The US are supporting Al-Qaeda, they were certainly supporting ISIS, and probably still do in a certain manner. So why should they be interested in human rights? The UK helped to destroy Iraq, Afghanistan, [and] Libya… They are interested in power grab – that is their interest, and UNHRC is only a way to achieve this power grab,” he said.

Earlier this week, a number of NGOs demanded Russia's removal from the UNHRC over its actions in Syria. 

Raza Kazim, spokesperson for Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), says that the western governments clearly have an agenda of where they want the UNHRC go.

“The term ‘human rights’ within the western governments’ context is being instrumentalized to make sure that their agenda put forward and that any kind of body that is representative of human rights is going to go down a particular route with these kind of things, follow their political agendas, provide them the fig leaf and the cover that they require to carry on doing the stuff that they’re doing. And anyone who is their political opponent will be kind of damaged and targeted through those instruments of human rights,” he told RT.

As an example, he referred to Saudi Arabia.

“What is Saudi Arabia doing on the Human Rights Council? We’ve seen it invade one country – Bahrain. We’ve seen it causing extensive damage to schools, to hospitals, to head teachers, to people’s homes; children being killed, just a general population being killed in Yemen next-door to it. What we’ve seen is a blockade of any humanitarian aid going into the country, so that people are dying of acute malnutrition,” he said. “We’ve seen Saudi Arabia clearly linked [to ISIS], Jabhat al-Nusra, and various other factions.”

Western countries, however, including the US and UK, are turning a blind eye to these violations, Kazim said.

“In fact, the UK army personnel or intelligence personnel are sitting in the command and control centers, from where Saudi Arabia is actually conducting its airstrikes within Yemen…” he added.

That is because Saudi Arabia is useful for the western agenda in terms of “sowing and fomenting the seeds of sectarianism,” Kazim argued.

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