Proof: Saudi Arabia, UK Exchanged Money, Votes To Win UNHRC Seats

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Saudi Arabia beheaded over 100 people in 2015 through June – more than they beheaded in the entirety of 2014. In July, Britain was condemned by the UN for repealing the Human Rights Act and denying prisoners the right to vote. According to leaked diplomatic cables, Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council (UNHRC).

The Saudi foreign ministry files refer to talks with British diplomats ahead of the November 2013 vote in New York. The classified Saudi cables, dated January and February 2013, were translated by The Australian newspaper. They were among 61,000 files from the Saudi Foreign Ministry released by WikiLeaks in June.

The classified exchanges suggest that the UK initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support. Both countries were eventually elected to the UNHRC, along with China, Russia, Vietnam and Algeria – which have all denied access to UN human rights monitors keen to investigate alleged abuses.

One cable read:

“The delegation is honoured to send to the ministry the enclosed memorandum, which the delegation has received from the permanent mission of the United Kingdom asking it for the support and backing of the candidacy of their country to the membership of the human rights council (HRC) for the period 2014-2016, in the elections that will take place in 2013 in the city of New York. The ministry might find it an opportunity to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom to the membership of the council for the period 2014-2015 in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

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Another cable revealed that Saudi Arabia transferred $100,000 for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the Kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016”.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, told The Australian:

“Based on the evidence, we remain deeply concerned that the UK may have contracted to elect the world’s most misogynistic regime as a world judge of human rights. The claim of the Foreign Office that concealing a country’s UN vote is a “standard practice” with “all members” is manifestly false. UN Watch finds it troubling that the UK refuses to deny the London-Riyadh vote-trade as contemplated in the Saudi cable, nor even to reassure the public that their voting complies with the core reform of the UNHRC’s founding resolution, which provides that candidates be chosen based on their human rights record, and that members be those who uphold the highest standards of human rights.”

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Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said:

“If the UK is doing back-room deals with Saudi officials over human rights, this would be a slap in the face for those beleaguered Saudi activists who already struggle with endemic persecution in the kingdom. People like the blogger Raif Badawi, who is still behind bars, have paid a heavy price for speaking about democracy and the need for tolerance in Saudi Arabia, and now the young activist Mohammed al-Nimr is also facing execution. The UK should be supporting the rights of Badawi and Al-Nimr, not pushing the non-existing human rights credentials of the Saudi Arabian authorities.”

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The revelation comes after Saudi Arabia’s appointment as chair of a UNHRC panel, which selects senior officials who draft international human rights standards and write reports on violations, was widely condemned. It’s 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,” Neuer said.


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