The Center for Inquiry (CFI) posted a video of Saudi Arabia attempting to stop a human rights representative from delivering a statement critical of the Gulf state’s repeated assaults on freedom of religion, belief and expression this week.
The incident occurred at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on June 23.
A speaker from CFI, a nonprofit based in the United States, Josephine Macintosh was unashamedly interrupted on three occasions by the delegation from Saudi Arabia when the case of Raif Badawi was raised at the conference.
A secular blogger in Saudi Arabia, Badawi was previously sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison, and faces a possible death sentence over charges of apostasy.
Macintosh criticized the writer’s conviction at the Council, saying, “Mr. Badawi is a prisoner of conscience who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.”
This prompted the Saudi representatives to interrupt the statement.
Despite a couple of other member states', including Ireland, France and Canada, request to let Macintosh speak, the Saudi delegates kept on interjecting each time she brought up an instance of human rights abuses in their country.
CFI released a statement following the incident, claiming Saudi Arabia tried to bully the organization into remaining silent about its atrocious human rights record with “repeated, cynical procedural obstructions”.
“We are proud of Josephine Macintosh for remaining firm in the face of Saudi Arabia’s intimidations, and we are very grateful to the four member states that spoke out on our behalf. Saudi Arabia’s violations of fundamental human rights must be known and condemned by the entire civilized world,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s main UN representative, and recently elected president of the UN’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on dissidents, including a highly publicized case involving Badawi, is receiving global condemnation. According to a human rights monitoring and advocacy group in Saudi Arabia, several rights activists have been sentenced to jail for being "‘outspoken" or allegedly inciting religious hatred.
Human Rights Watch states in a report that Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens.
Turns out, the incident at Geneva has only triggered an even more negative reaction toward Saudi Arabia, leading to the resurfacing of stories of other abuses such as discrimination against women, domestic and migrant workers.
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