The United Nations has appointed Saudi Arabia representative Faisal bin Hassan Trad as head of a key human rights panel that is tasked with naming experts that determine global human rights standards. Among those criticising the UN for the appointment is non-governmental watchdog UN Watch and Ensaf Haidar, the wife of the imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, who has been flogged in public in Saudi Arabia.
Haidar claimed that this will lead to Saudi being able to flog Badawi again. UN Watch has called upon US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini to condemn the appointment.
UN Watch director Hillel Neuer said that the choice is scandalous, saying that the country has beheaded more people in 2015 than the Islamic State has. "Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights," he said. "Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women's rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi.
"This UN appointment is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief, and underscores the credibility deficit of a human rights council that already counts Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela among its elected members."
In the first half of 2015, Saudi Arabia beheaded more than 100 people. The country is known for using corporal punishments, which include decapitations, whippings and mutilations. Only Iran, with almost 300 executions in 2014, killed more people as punishment.
Crimes which may be punished with beheading in Saudi Arabia include murder, rape, armed robbery, using recreational drugs, and smuggling, in addition to homosexuality, false prophecy, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery.
The country has also been criticised for the way it keeps women from driving and enjoying other rights, its treatment of LGBT citizens. According to a Human Rights Watch report, Saudi Arabia continues to "try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities".
HRW also condemned the systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities and claimed that the Kingdom failed to "enact systematic measures to protect the rights of 9 million foreign workers".