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Islam and Human Rights ( 5 Oct 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Arabia Heading UNHRC Panel: A Cruel Joke!

By Sourav Banerjee

05 October, 2015

In Saudi Arabia, corporal punishments as well as capital executions - by beheading – are carried out

in public or in prison depending on the court ruling (Courtesy of Amnesty International)

Recently on September 17, 2015, Saudi Arabia was chosen to head an influential UN Human Rights Council panel — a consultative group of five ambassadors empowered to select applicants (often described as the “crown jewels” of the UNHRC) globally to deal with human rights violations and mandates. Handing over of “crown jewels” to a primitive fashioned repressive regime with one of the worst human rights records was a blatant betrayal of the aspirations of Article 55 of United Nations Charter,which endorses “Universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”

While most of the world is struck with awe and indignation, the US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner candidly “welcomes” the appointment of its “close ally.” In a US mainstream media, noted journalist Glenn Greenwald quoted another anonymous senior US official as admitting, “The US loves human-rights-abusing regimes and always has, provided they cooperate…The only time the US government pretends to care in the slightest about human rights abuses is when they’re carried out by countries that don’t cooperate.” Bob Dylan sang it right decades back: “Sometimes, the President of the United States has to stand naked…Its Alright Ma, I’m only bleeding.”

The Land of (In)human Rights

Saudi Arabia has already executed over 100 people this year mostly by beheading, more than ISIS during the same period, and is reaching new heights of justice depravity with a recently released judgement to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 for participating in an ‘illegal’ anti-government demonstration and a range of other offencesincluding “explaining how to give first aid to protestors” and “inviting others to join him at the protest” in the wake of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprising. Ali’s execution would be illegal under international law and a tight slap on the face of democracy and human rights.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is regularly criticised by various international rights groups’ due to itsperennial human rights abuse, sexual exploitation, complete denialof freedom of religion andexpression, labour exploitation, and other rights violations. The reason is obvious. According to a 44-page report released by the Amnesty Internationalrecently, Saudi Arabia has executed at least 2,208 people including children and people with mental disabilities, since January 1985. The executions have been mostly for crimes not considered the “most serious” or even illegal under international standards likepetty drug-related offences, adultery, apostasy, witchcraft and sorcery. In 2014 itself the kingdom has executed at least 175 people at a rate of one every two days, according to the report. The execution rate suddenly surged in August last year and continued to rise under the new King Salman from January, it warns. Perhaps, the Kingdom seemson its boots to outgrow it’s earlier record of 192 executions in 1995.

In a stunning mockery of human rights and ethics, in compliance with the harshest Sharia law-backed justice system, most of its executions werecarried out either by beheading or by firing squad in public, and in many cases the corpse were displayed in public as a deterrent to others despitethe UN’s call for banning executions in public. Numerous reports cite torture, sexual humiliation, flogging of dissidents as being rampant, despite Saudi being a party to the UN Convention Against Torture.

Saudi was also one of the countries which illegally bombed Iraq in 2003. Similarly, since March 25, 2015, it has been bombing Yemen withoutany UN mandate, which already has killed about 4000 people including civilians and children,and displaced millions. It is alleged that US-supplied cluster bombs have also been used in these conflicts despite a December 2008 Convention supported by 117 States to ban these lethal munitions. While it is perhaps indicative of their proximity to the US, not surprisingly, Saudi was never booked for such atrocious war crimes.

Know thy King

Following the demise of King Abdullah few months ago, one of his younger brothers, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was sworn in as the new King of the world's top oil exporter, who by default is also the custodian of the two holy mosques as well as the head of the House of Saud. The who’s who at the helm of global capital and power including Britain’s PM David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, George HW Bush, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA director John Brennan, former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, Britain’s Prince Charles et al shot diplomatic obituaries and also were prompt enough to congratulate the new ‘Master’ of the kingdom of liquid gold that lubricates and runs the world. Ignoringits own Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report citing Saudi as “a country of concern,” Britain kept the Union Flag at half-mast over the nation’s most important political landmarks, including the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, as a tribute to the deceased Saudi King Abdullah. As a redemption to Abdullah’s staunch support for the current Egyptian regime, its President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi declared seven days of mourning – four days longer than the usual mourning periods. Bahrain, Jordan and the Palestinian territories too observed days of mourning. India however, wasn’t lagging behind, as it had flown Vice President Hamid Ansari down to King’s funeral in Riyadh to convey the country’s ‘deepest grief’ on the nonagenarian King’s sad demise.

With the new ruler on the throne, it is an imperative to evaluate its political implications in consultation with history, before we pin our hope on him for a new era of reform in the war-ravaged region as well as the world. Ironically, contrary to the praises heaped by scores of statesmen, King Salman has been a huge patron of terrorism globally for decades. Evidences available are plenty, and it is no more a secret despite a staunch mainstream media silence.

In December 2009 in a US Embassy cable (released by Wikileaksrecently) the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton wrote that “While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority…Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide…engagement is needed to… encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.” Investors Business Daily (a weekly business newspaper headquartered in California, USA) notes: “Former CIA official Bruce Riedel astutely pointed out, Salman was the regime’s lead fundraiser for mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, as well as for Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan struggles of the 1990s.” In “Why America Slept,” author Gerald Posner claims that Salman’s son Ahmed bin Salman also had ties to al-Qaida and even prior knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which triggered the bloodiest genocidal ‘Global War On Terror’ with a gory trail of destruction in Afghanistan, Middle East and North Africa. It is no secret that nineteen of the hijackers of the plane that hit the World Trade Centre were Saudis.

According to a ‘Washington’s Blog’ hard-nosed report published in ‘Global Research’ — a peer review political journal published from Canada —Salman once ran a Saudi charity namelySaudi High Commission (SHC) for Relief to Bosnia and Herzegovinawhich had allegiance to al-Qaida, and has been named a defendant in two lawsuits accusing the Saudi royal family of helping the 9/11 terrorists, one of which the US Supreme Court recently reconsidered after years of Saudi lobby funded media blackout.

According to a UN-sponsored investigation, “Salman between 1992 and 1995 transferred more than $120 million from commission accounts as well as his own personal accounts to the Vienna-based Bosnian aid organisation Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), another al-Qaida front and main illegal weapons supplier to al-Qaida fighters in the Balkans,” before its closure in 2011. A 1996 CIA report says, “We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan such as the SHC, are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists.” In 1997, SHC employee Saber Lahmar was arrested for plotting to blow up the US embassy in Saravejo. Former CIA officer Robert Baer has reported that an international raid of SHC’s Sarajevo offices in 2001, led by NATO forces, unearthed a terrorist plot against America, and “seized a large cache of fundamentalist literature including before-and-after photographs of al Qaeda attacks, instructions on how to fake US State Department badges, and maps of important government buildings across Washington.” By 2001, the organisation had collected around $600 million for humanitarian and religious purposes, a major chunk of which allegedly went to facilitating arms shipments, despite a UN arms embargo on Bosnia and other Yugoslav successor states from 1991 to 1996.A defector from al Qaeda while deposing before the UN for lawyers representing the families of 9/11 victims, alleged that both Salman’s SHC and the TWRA provided essential support to al Qaeda in Bosnia, including to his 107-man combat unit.

In November 2002, Prince Salman patronised a fundraising gala for three Saudi charities — the International Islamic Relief Organization, al-Haramain Foundation, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth — which were under Washington’s scanner since 9/11, and later forced to close or sanctioned over allegations of financing terrorism.One of the closest allies of the new king has been Saudi cleric Saleh al- Moghamsy, a radical anti-Semite, Islamic supremacist who in 2012 declared Osama bin Laden had more “sanctity and honour in the eyes of Allah,” simply for being a Muslim, than “Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, apostates, and atheists.” Such is the relationship with Moghamsy that the new Saudi king recently served as head of the supervisory board for a Medina research centre directed by Moghamsy.According to another US based journal Washington Free Beacon, Salman was also associated with Safar Hawali, a one-time mentor of Osama bin Laden. Rachel Bronson in her book, Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership With Saudi Arabia, claimed Salman also helped recruit fighters for Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan Salafist fighter who served as a mentor to both Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

If these are not enough; hardly flashed in the mainstream media, the US government’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo once enlisted SHC as suspected “terrorist and terrorist support entities.” The Defence Intelligence Agency also once accused the SHC of shipping both aid and weapons to Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the al Qaeda-linked Somali warlord depicted as a villain in the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down despite a United Nations arms embargo imposed on Somalia since January 1992.The board of trustees for the Prince Salman Youth Center, which Salman himself chairs, includes a Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel aka “golden chain”, whose name surfaced on a purported list of al Qaeda’s earliest supporters.

Oily truth

Devils are on prowl, and civilisation is in serious peril, while West wages “Global War on Terrorism”— a humanitarian endeavour with a “responsibility to protect” humanity and peace. But all said and done, peace remains only in a piece of paper because the ‘business’ must go on.

‘Muslim countries’ possess more than 60 per cent of total oil reserves, Saudi being the largest. In contrast, the US has barely 2 per cent of total oil reserves, five times less than Iraq, let alone other major European and Asian countries which has to completely depend on Middle East for oil. So, King is indispensable. Whoever needs oil must submit before him. In a capitalist economy poor have no choice while the King reigns. However, it is the time we being a responsible human being should collectively refuse to accept all the unholy alliances which encourages indiscriminate killing of men, women and children in order to retain vast natural resources, naturally meant for all of us. The big hypocrisy must be exposed before it is too late.

Sourav Banerjee is a political activist, writer and works as an editor with a US based publication house. He can be reached at