NEW YORK (Dispatches) – Saudi Arabia has failed in its bid to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council as China, Russia and Cuba were elected to three-year terms.
Human rights groups hailed the snub to Saudi Arabia, which deals a blow to the kingdom’s attempts to improve its image in the international community.
"The #HRC elections today delivered a stunning rebuke to #SaudiArabia under Mohammed bin Salman,” tweeted Bruno Stagno, a deputy executive director at Human Rights Watch, referring to the country’s crown prince.
"Only country not elected, shunned by a majority of the UN. The kingdom reaped what it deserves for its serious violations of human rights and war crimes abroad,” he added.
Saudi Arabia’s fall from grace came two years after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which sparked an international cry for human rights accountability in the oil-rich Persian Gulf nation.
"Unless Saudi Arabia undertakes dramatic reforms to release political prisoners, end its disastrous war in Yemen and allow its citizens meaningful political participation, it will remain a global pariah,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, which was founded by Khashoggi.
Fifteen positions were up for grabs on the 47-seat body that has been criticized by rights organizations and the U.S. for electing countries accused of human rights
violations. However, only four of the 15 spots were contested, all in Asia-Pacific.
In secret-ballot voting in the 193-member UN General Assembly on the race, Pakistan received 169 votes, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia just 90 votes. In 2016, the Saudis won a seat with 152 votes.
The HRW accused Saudi Arabia of "massive rights violations,” and targeting human rights campaigners and political dissidents. The New York-based organization also called Riyadh a "serial rights abuser” which has threatened to withdraw funding for the UN to force it into removing Riyadh from its annual list of child-killers.
Official figures show over 7,200 children have been either killed or wounded in the Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen since 2015.
"Rights abusers should not be rewarded with seats on the Human Rights Council,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at HRW. "It’s not good for human rights or for the rights council when the worst rights violators get elected.”
Since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating Western-backed war on Yemen, Amnesty’s researchers have investigated dozens of airstrikes and repeatedly found and identified remnants of US-manufactured munitions.
According to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.