Saudi Arabia Hosting UN Human Rights Conference on Religious Freedom - from Human Rights Watch

Saudi Arabia Hosting UN Human Rights Conference on Religious Freedom - from Human Rights Watch

GENEVA, June 4, 2015 – Despite its reputation as one the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, Saudi Arabia is now hosting in Jeddah a UN human rights conference on combating intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, attended by the president of the UN Human Rights Council and other top international representatives.

“It’s time for the politics of oil to stop trumping the basic principles of human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group.

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“It’s bad enough that the oppressive and fundamentalist Saudi monarchy was elected to sit on the UN Human Rights Council. But for top UN human rights officials to now visit Jeddah and smile while human rights activist Raif Badawi languishes in prison for the crime of religious dissent, still under threat of further flogging, is to pour salt in the wounds. It’s astonishing.”

UN Watch expressed alarm that the participation of Ambassador Joachim Ruecker, president of the UN Human Rights Council, would grant “false international legitimacy to a regime that beheads people in the town square, systematically oppresses women, Christians, and gays, and jails innocent bloggers like Raif Badawi for the crime of challenging the rulers’ radical brand of Wahabbist Islam.”

The Obama Administration sent two top envoys to participate, religious freedom ambassador David Saperstein, and Arsalan Suleman, Acting Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Also, Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, addressed one of the panels.

“We urge the council president, the UN expert, and the two U.S. envoys to, at a minimum, denounce Saudi Arabia for its gross and systematic violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of religion. He should also demand that Saudi Arabia end its subjugation of women, in violation of the Article 2 equality guarantee.”

The Jeddah conference is the 5th meeting under what is called the “Istanbul Process” to implement the controversial UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, entitled “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.”
Hosted by the 56-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the official purpose of the meeting is to “discuss the effective implementation of Resolution 16/18 by building on existing initiatives and identifying new collaborative opportunities.”

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