centerforinquiry.net: At the UN Human Rights Council today, the Center for Inquiry slammed the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia’s plans to host a key international human rights conference, calling on the country to free its prisoners of conscience and protect the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression.
Last week at the Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Slimane Chickh, announced that Saudi Arabia would host the next conference in the Istanbul Process, which is focused on implementing the Council’s Resolution 16/18, a measure intended to combat religious intolerance.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia persecutes, imprisons, and abuses political and religious dissidents such as activist Mohammed al-Bajadi, human rights lawyer Waleed abu al-Khair, and blogger Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes for hosting an online discussion forum, and may also be executed for apostasy. It also bars women from exercising their fundamental conscience rights, and jails those who do.
“One assumes Saudi authorities will not arrange for diplomats and NGOs to pay these political prisoners a visit,” said CFI’s Michael De Dora at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council, of which Saudi Arabia is a member. “The rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression remain nearly non-existent in Saudi Arabia … [It] has a lengthy record of punishing any individual or community that differs from the government’s narrow version of authoritarian Islamic law.”