Last week, Saudi Arabia started the new year by executing 47 people, including a prominent Shiite cleric. Many of the prisoners were executed for non-violent crimes, or convicted with confessions obtained by torture.
Despite the recent string of executions and other questionable human rights policies in the past, Saudi Arabia is still the chairman of the UN’s Human Rights Council.
A series of cartoons that pointed out the absurdity of the situation went viral after the New Year’s executions.
— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) January 3, 2016
The UN’s top human rights official, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, criticized the executions, particularly that of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr for anti-government activity. Al-Hussein said that the executions were “a very disturbing development indeed, particularly as some of those sentenced to death were accused of non-violent crimes.”
Al-Hussein went on to say that international law only permits the death penalty for the most serious types of crimes, such as murder.
— Nomadic_MD (@france7776) January 2, 2016
The UN’s human rights website says that the council “takes into account the candidate states’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Despite Saudi Arabia’s constant violations, such as a record high number of beheadings last year, they remain the chair of the council.
Last year, The Guardian leaked documents that suggested that the UK and Saudi Arabia engaged in a vote-trading deal to assure that they were both on the council. Many of the cartoonists drew parallels between the brutality of Saudi Arabia and ISIS.
“Regardless of the crimes allegedly committed, executing prisoners in mass only further stains Saudi Arabia’s troubling human rights record,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director.
— Prof Kailash Chand OBE FRCGP (@KailashChandOBE) January 3, 2016