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Keyes' Speech from Briefing in the UN - May 26, 2011
The UN resolution which created the Human Rights Council emphasized the responsibility of all states to "respect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language or religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
Nothing could further damage and mock this noble mandate than the presence of Saudi Arabia, a theocratic dictatorship and the world's most discriminatory state, on the council.
Saudi Arabia: a country which lashes gays and forbids women from leaving their homes without a man's permission. A government which imprisons bloggers like Fouad Al Farhan and puts TV hosts like Ali Sibat on death row for sorcery. Saudi Arabia, A nation which jails men like Hadi Al Mutaif for nearly two decades for cracking a joke about religion. A country which prohibits women like Wajeha Al Huwaidar from driving a car, even to see her dying mother. Saudi Arabia: a nation which outlaws all churches and synagogues. A government which treats women as chattel slaves and enforces gender apartheid. Saudi Arabia, A country which prints textbooks by the millions calling people of other faiths- ahfaz al qirda wal khanazirâ"the descendants of monkeys and pigs.
The council's founding resolution states that "When electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights..." Moreover, "a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights."
Is not the whole-sale denial of freedom of speech, press, association, religion, dress, movement and emigration deemed grave enough to remove the Saudi dictatorship from this august body? Just weeks ago, the Saudi tyrant announced a new amendment banning all criticism of political and religious leaders punishable by prison or a fine up to a million riyal. And not a peep from the Human Rights Council.
How on earth did such a draconian desert dictatorship come to enjoy a coveted spot on this council? How does one of the world's worst violators of human rights sit in judgement of any countryâ"let alone liberal democracies? This could have only come about in one way: a total loss of moral clarity.
My mentor, Natan Sharansky, has said that a refusal to see the difference between free and totalitarian societies, "undermines the universal values on which a claim to human rights is based." Moreover, "To equate all cultures, to refuse to distinguish between those that are democratic and those that are not, is the profoundest betrayal of human rights."
Saudi Arabia can guard human rights no more than a serial rapist can guard the rights of women. Hypocrisy is far too timid a word do describe the sham and outrage that is Saudi Arabia's presence on the council.
One singular act can help restore the honor and uprightness of this body. Saudi Arabia must be immediately removed and investigated by the UNHRC. A set of firm moral standardsâ"one that distinguishes between tyranny and freedomâ"must replace a system that gives equal weight to victim and aggressor, to oppressor and oppressed.
The immense potential and noble mandate of the council must not be perverted any longer by amplifying the voice of the vicious Saudi dictatorship.
Justice may be blind, but the UN should not be. In the name of millions of men and women forced into double think and self-censorship, into servitude and fear and let us confront the degrading and barbaric Saudi theocracy. Only then will this august body reclaim its nobility and advance the cause of human rights.