Saudi Arabia Tries to Censor Criticism in UN Human Rights Council

Monday morning, a representative of the Center for Inquiry was speaking at a meeting of the United Nations Council on Human Rights and was criticizing Saudi Arabia for its barbaric treatment of those accused of “blasphemy,” especially Raif Badawi. The Saudi representative tried three times to prevent her from speaking.

This morning at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Saudi Arabia tried three times to stop the Center for Inquiry (CFI) from delivering a statement criticizing the country for its human rights violations.

Our statement, delivered by volunteer representative Josephine Macintosh, condemned Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on freedom of religion, belief, and expression, highlighting the cases of jailed rights activists Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair. We also raised the obvious tension between Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices and its membership on the UN Human Rights Council.

Saudi Arabia interrupted Macintosh three separate times to complain that her statement was “unacceptable” and “completely outside” the parameters of debate.

Ultimately, however, the Saudi efforts were denied. Four member states — Canada, France, Ireland, and the United States — spoke out in support of Center for Inquiry’s right to deliver the statement. Even more to the point, UN Human Rights Council Vice President Katerina Sequensova responded that “speakers are expected to raise issues or comment on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, including a human rights situation at a country level.” She informed Saudi Arabia that it should use the mechanism which allows the country the right to reply.

Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia did not use its right of reply — which suggests it was interested only in intimidating CFI from calling attention to the cases of Badawi and al-Khair, and noting the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia being a member of the UN Human Rights Council while denying basic human rights to its citizens.

Here is the video:


  1. some bastard on the net says

    Oh, come on! Saudi Arabia totally makes sense as a member of the HRC! I mean, just look at how well they defend their citizenry from contrary points of view! They’re heroes, I tells ya!

  2. says

    “Her”? I’m quite surprised they could concentrate at all, what with her bare head and exposed face. Isn’t that the effect unveiled women are supposed to have on fanatic Muslim men?

  3. anachronistes says

    I find it ironic that Ireland supported the CFI representative’s right to criticize Saudi Arabia’s prosecution of a citizen for violating blasphemy laws, when Ireland just reaffirmed the status of their own blasphemy law.

  4. vmanis1 says

    Tabby Lavalamp:

    To be fair, I’m having a reeeeeeeeeeeeeally hard time thinking of a country that belongs on the Human Rights Council.

    I don’t know what `belongs on the Human Rights Council’ means. Saudi Arabia is a UN member, and therefore has a legal right to participate. If by `belong’ we mean `has no human rights deficiencies at all’, then clearly there is no country on the planet that `belongs’ there. But there’s a third meaning. There are countries that have spotty to good, though definitely not perfect, human rights records. In this I would include most though not all countries with a strong democratic system, codified human rights protections, and strong constitutional provisions relating to freedom of speech and religion, due process, and equal protection. Each country that falls in this group has serious defects, perhaps running illegal spying operations on its citizens, leaving its aboriginal citizens to languish in poverty, or denying equal marriage rights, among many others.

    These nations can use the Human Rights Council (and other UN agencies) as a tool for not only spreading the rule of law around the world, but forcing them to improve their own behavior.

    Clearly Saudi Arabia has no claim to belong in this group: they contribute nothing at all to human rights in their own country or around the world. Yet their membership forced them to listen (or at least not stop others from listening) when their behavior was denounced. That may have no effect at all on their behavior; but each such denunciation helps to spread the notion that human rights must be protected.

    It would be nice if the UN were only composed of like-minded countries. But the purpose is to bring the entire world into some kind of dialog, and if that means rogues and theocratic monsters must be listened to, well, it’s a small price to pay.

  5. Alverant says

    Having Saudi Arabia on the Human Rights council makes about as much sense as putting creationists like Michelle Bauchman on the US Science council.

  6. Olav says

    Of course they do belong there. I will say it again, unironically: an institution like the United Nations Council on Human Rights is exactly the right place for Saudi Arabian delegation to demonstrate their backwardness. It is also where they will hear what others think of them, whether they listen or not.

    Now as for those other countries with less-than-stellar human rights reputations… I believe they are often even more hypocritical than Saudi Arabia. At least the Saudis do not pretend to care about such things.

  7. says

    I love the irony that Saudi Arabia protesting her statement has given more attention to the situation. If he had just sat down and shut up no one would have ever bothered watching this video. I don’t know how everyone was able to keep their cool with him being such a jackass.

  8. vereverum says

    @ anachronistes #5
    It’s because those are Christian blasphemy laws; Christian blasphemy laws are right and proper. Had this event been Christian blasphemy violation then they would’ve taken the same position the Saudi’s did. It all depends upon your point of view.

  9. congenital cynic says

    I just listened to that and had flashbacks to the senate meetings on Star Wars, except this crap is happening in the real world. Translation of the Saudi points of order: “hey, we got elected to be here, so she can’t say that shit about us” (even though it’s true).

  10. Synfandel says

    Ouabache wrote: “I don’t know how everyone was able to keep their cool with him being such a jackass.”

    Keeping their cool is exactly what diplomats are trained to do. They’re the ninjas of levelheadedness.

  11. Darjien says

    It’s because those are Christian blasphemy laws; Christian blasphemy laws are right and proper. Had this event been Christian blasphemy violation then they would’ve taken the same position the Saudi’s did. It all depends upon your point of view.

    Actually, I suspect it’s because the Irish representative to the HRC doesn’t particularly support Ireland’s anti-blasphemy laws. I’m guessing this because I don’t know many people who do (though I recognise this is anecdotal). They’re just a pretext that is hung there to not automatically alienate the 20% who are in favour, while being ignored by the rest.

  12. anachronistes says

    Thanks, Darjien. While what I said was kind of tongue-in-cheek, I appreciate further insight.

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