Rights watchdogs urge Saudi Arabia be removed from UN rights council

The UN General Assembly should remove Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council for carrying out indiscriminate attacks in Yemen and using its position on the council to deflect accountability, human rights organizations said Wednesday.

In a rare joint press conference, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that Saudi Arabia has lost its right to be a member of the UN rights body, noting that the credibility of the council and the United Nations as a whole depended on the issue.

Both groups said the 193-member General Assembly should invoke its right to suspend Saudi Arabia's membership because of the kingdom's human rights record, especially in regard to the Yemeni crisis.

Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, said that while many countries on the council have "very questionable rights records," Saudi Arabia was in "a league of its own" due to the severity of its violations domestically and abroad.

"They have been able to get away with murder in a way that almost no other country gets away with," Bolopion said. "They have been able to use their power and influence to shield themselves from criticism and scrutiny and accountability."

Richard Bennett, head of Amnesty International's UN office, said Saudi Arabia has used its membership on the council to prevent an investigation into rights violations during the Yemen conflict, in which it fought in support of the Yemeni government.

"Failure to act on Saudi Arabia's gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly," Bennett said.

The call comes after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was pressured into removing the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a UN blacklist of entities that have committed violence against children in conflict.

Ban said that Saudi Arabia had threatened to withhold funding from several UN agencies unless its coalition was removed from the report, which found that almost 2,000 children had been killed or injured in Yemen during 2015, 60 per cent of which had been attributed to the coalition.

Last update: Sun, 24/07/2016 - 15:06

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