Kick Them Out: Saudi Position on UN Human Rights Council Challenged

In this photo released by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks at a meeting of the Islamic Military Counterterrorism Alliance in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Saudi Arabia's assertive crown prince on Sunday opened the first high-level meeting of a kingdom-led alliance …
Saudi Press Agency via AP

Saudi Arabia’s arbitrary detention of political and free speech activists without charge should end its membership of the UN Human Rights Council, according to two British lawyers.

In a report released in London, Rodney Dixon QC and Lord Kenneth Donald John Macdonald said more than 60 individuals were detained by the desert kingdom in September last year. The pair argue that suspending Saudi Arabia from the body for that act alone would “act as a major lever for the government to clean up their act and make a proper new start.”

Their report, soon to be submitted to the council in Geneva, accuses the authorities of “targeting human rights activists, political dissidents and others merely exercising their right to free speech.”

It also alleges that the arrests carried out in September are “part of an ongoing, established and long-running pattern of abuse” by Saudi Arabia.

According to the Law Society Gazette, the report, Shrouded in Secrecy, was commissioned by “certain families of 61 victims” following a wave of arbitrary arrests, detentions, and disappearances.

Authors Lord Macdonald (former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald QC) and Rodney Dixon QC of Garden Court Chambers say the detentions are “arbitrary and unlawful” and breach binding treaty commitments as well as customary international law.

Of the 61 people arrested, about 30 are known to be still detained, Dixon told the Gazette, the whereabouts of the rest is unknown. The chambers is not revealing its clients’ names for fear of reprisals, Dixon said.

In Geneva, Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said any move to suspend a member would ultimately need to be taken by the General Assembly in a two-thirds majority of members present and voting.

AFP reports the 47-nation Human Rights Council’s founding resolution calls on members to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

The only time a council member was suspended was in March 2011 when the General Assembly decided to suspend Libya’s membership following late dictator Muammar Gadhafi’s violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

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