After months of protests, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on the United Nations General Assembly to “immediately suspend” Saudi Arabia from its Human Rights Council.
Citing numerous, mass human rights violations, the world’s top rights groups insisted the Gulf kingdom (mis)used its position on the council to manipulate independent investigations into the alleged abuses by the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen since March 2015.
“Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, some of which may amount to war crimes, which have killed at least 913 civilians and have hit residences, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also documented 19 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions,” the two human rights watchdogs wrote in a joint letter to the U.N.
In addition, from record number of executions to the country’s troubled stated of women’s rights, the issue of human rights abuses being committed inside Saudi Arabia was also raised.
However, all of these problems, individually, have been brought to the attention of the U.N. The real question is: Will it do something about it?
If history is any indication, the answer is probably no.
Just recently, the U.N. removed Saudi Arabia from a list of government forces violating children’s rights, despite reports of extensive cruelty against children in Yemen.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself publicly acknowledged that he removed the Saudi-led coalition currently bombing Yemen because Riyadh threatened to rescind funding.
However, only a few days later after his statement, Ban met Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince and both of them sorted things out.
Also, the problem at U.N.’s Human Rights Council doesn’t end with Saudi Arabia. It is just one of 47 countries that sit on the Geneva-based body in a rotating membership. The member countries include names like China, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, UAE, Venezuela and even the United States where human rights violations, either domestically or via foreign conflict, are reported frequently.
Along with member states that engage in human rights violation, there is an urgent need to address the basic structure of the U.N. that allows member countries, especially the wealthy ones, to manipulate their way out of accountability.