President Barack Obama, joined by Saudi King Salman, shakes hands with other members of the royal family. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world, is apparently making a bid to become the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

This surprising news comes just days after Saudi Arabia posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners amid a soaring execution rate. So far this year, the country has put 85 people to death in what Amnesty International has called a “macabre spike” from the total of 87 people it killed last year.

According to The Independent:

“The country will move to assume lead control over the HRC after 2016 when the presidency is awarded to a new nation.

UN Watch, a non-profit human rights group that monitors the international body, disclosed Saudi Arabia’s intentions in a recent report and urged the United States to fight against it.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said that the move was liable to be “the final nail in the coffin for the credibility of a body that already counts dictatorships like China, Cuba and Russia as members, and whose top advisor is co-founder of the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize”.

“We urge US Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini to denounce this despicable act of cynicism by 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,” Neuer added.

“Electing Saudi Arabia as the world’s judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac as the town fire chief.”

The move in 2013 to elect Saudi Arabia to the UN’s 47-seat Human Rights Council drew condemnation from campaign groups over alleged systematic violations of the rights of its citizens.

Germany currently heads the HRC, but its term will conclude in 2016. Elections will be held in early December 2015 for the 2016 term, according to a UN official.

Saudi Arabia routinely imprisons and executes people it labels “enemies of the kingdom,” who can be executed for murder, blasphemy, banditry, homosexual acts and infidelity.

Middle East Eye, which often criticizes Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, compared a set of legal punishments carried out by the Islamic State with corresponding punishments in Saudi Arabia, revealing they were nearly identical. Read the findings here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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