At FORUM-ASIA, we employ a range of strategies to effectively achieve our goals and create a lasting impact.

Through a diverse array of approaches, FORUM-ASIA is dedicated to achieving our objectives and leaving a lasting imprint on human rights advocacy.

Who we work with

Our interventions are meticulously crafted and ready to enact tangible change, addressing pressing issues and empowering communities.

Each statements, letters, and publications are meticulously tailored, poised to transform challenges into opportunities, and to empower communities towards sustainable progress.

Multimedia Stories

With a firm commitment to turning ideas into action, FORUM-ASIA strives to create lasting change that leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

Explore our dedicated sub-sites to witness firsthand how FORUM-ASIA turns ideas into action, striving to create a legacy of lasting positive change for future generations.

Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter

Human Rights Council: Saudi Arabia should not be re-elected as a member!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

than 40 civil society organisations, including FORUM-ASIA and its
members, called on all the governments not to vote for Saudi Arabia to
be re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council. Their letter here, sent on 28 April 2009, shows failures of the country not to
cooperate with the council. The election for new membership will take
place on 12 May.
than 40 civil society organisations, including FORUM-ASIA and its
members, called on all the governments not to vote for Saudi Arabia to
be re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council. Their letter
below, sent on 28 April 2009, shows failures of the country not to
cooperate with the council. The election for new membership will take
place on 12 May.

Your Excellency:  

On May 12, 2009, your government
will vote for new members to the UN Human Rights Council (Council).
We, the undersigned international human rights organisations, join human
rights groups from the Arab region in urging your government not to
vote in favour of the reelection of Saudi Arabia to the Council this

The resolution establishing
the Council requires that its members "fully cooperate" with the
Council, including the independent human rights experts it appoints,
and "uphold the highest standards" of human rights. Saudi
Arabia meets neither of these two criteria.   

Rather than "fully cooperate"
with the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia has:

  1. Rejected Recommendations
    under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Saudi Arabia's submission
    to the UPR failed to provide meaningful factual information about human
    rights violations in Saudi Arabia. The national report also contained no
    pledge to accede to key human rights treaties. Furthermore, the Human
    Rights Commission, a governmental entity which prepared the report,
    stated that it had involved all nongovernmental stakeholders, but well-known
    human rights activists reported to international human rights organisations
    that the commission had not consulted them. The Saudi government delegation
    gave limited and vague responses to the concerns raised by states during
    the universal periodic review, dismissing criticisms as unfounded due
    to a misunderstanding of Islam, Shari'a Law, and Saudi culture. Rather,
    Saudi Arabia pointed to Shari'a and the Quran as evidence of Saudi
    Arabia's commitment to human rights. While the rules of the review were
    generally followed, Saudi Arabia summarily rejected numerous recommendations,
    saying that they did "not conform to its existing laws, pledges, and
    commitments or do not refer to existing practices in Saudi Arabia".
    These included recommendations that the government withdraw its reservations
    to CEDAW, ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, declare
    a moratorium on the death penalty with a view toward abolishing it,
    eliminate corporal punishment, and end the practice of incarcerating,
    mistreating, and applying travel bans against individuals on the basis
    of their political or religious beliefs.
  2. Failed to accept
    visits requested by numerous special procedures of the Council.
    As of April 2009, Saudi Arabia has six outstanding requests for visits
    from the Council's special procedures. Requests from the experts on
    freedom of opinion and _expression, trafficking in persons, and extrajudicial,
    summary or arbitrary executions all predate the formation of the Council.
    Since Saudi Arabia joined the Council, the experts on torture and on
    freedom of religion or belief and the working group on arbitrary detention
    have also requested visits. Saudi Arabia has only accepted visits by
    two special procedures to date: the special rapporteurs on the independence
    of the judiciary (2002) and on violence against women (2008).
  3. Failed to respond
    to written requests from the Council and its experts. In the past
    four years, Saudi Arabia has only responded to 13 of the 47 letters
    of allegation and urgent appeal sent by the Council's experts. It
    also responded to only one of the twelve questionnaires sent by Council
    experts within the deadlines. The government facilitated the visit of
    the special rapporteur on violence against women but failed to fully
    cooperate with the rapporteur's follow-up questions. Yet, in its state
    report to the Universal Periodic Review, the government incorrectly
    stated that it "repl[ies] to all allegations received."

These repeated failures to
"fully cooperate with the Council" amount to an obstruction of its
legitimate work and undermine the Council's ability to effectively
protect human rights. 

In addition, Saudi Arabia has
failed to ratify the two fundamental international human rights treaties:
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, despite official promises
since at least six years to do so.  

Saudi Arabia's domestic record
similarly does not meet the Council's membership standards. Rights
to freedom of _expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion
and belief are not recognized in law and severely restricted in practice.
From 2007 to 2009, Saudi security forces have arrested and detained,
and courts have sentenced, persons for peaceful _expression of opinion
on internet websites, through private email, and in small public assemblies.
The domestic intelligence forces have held thousands of detainees without
charge or trial for over five years in some cases. Trials of terrorism
suspects begun in 2009 are conducted in secret, in summary fashion,
without legal representation for defendants and in violation of other
fair trial standards. Saudi Arabia is one of only five countries in
the world to retain the death penalty for children. 

Government policy discriminates
against women, foreign workers, and religious minorities. The government
systematically suppresses the rights of 14 million Saudi women. Women
require permission of their male guardians to work, travel, study, marry,
receive health care or access public services and they are still not
allowed to drive. Strictly enforced sex segregation adds
to these barriers and hinders a Saudi
woman's ability to participate
fully in public life. At least 1.5 million women domestic migrant workers
suffer widespread abuses of their labor rights without the possibility
of redress and many are subject to frequent verbal, physical, and sexual
assault. Eight million migrant workers suffer discrimination in labor
practices and access to the justice system. Saudi religious minorities
cannot freely worship and suffer discrimination in employment, the education
and religion-based justice system.  

Membership on the Human Rights
Council has not led Saudi Arabia to tangibly improve its human rights
record. During this election, we urge UN member states to make clear
to Saudi Arabia that to be considered a candidate, the government must
demonstrate tangible improvements in the worst areas of its human rights
record and step up its cooperation with the Council.  

General Assembly members should
not consider Saudi Arabia's candidacy until the kingdom has demonstrated
its willingness to: 

  • Cooperate fully
    with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, and  
    ensure the procedures are strengthened within the Council.
  • Cease to restrict
    freedom of _expression and association and peaceful assembly.
  • Ensure detainees
    have the right to judicial review and to fair and transparent trials.
  • End the juvenile
    death penalty.
  • End official discrimination
    against women by abolishing the male guardianship system.
  • Improve migrant
    workers' labor protections and conditions and their access to the
    justice system, with particular attention paid to migrant domestic workers.
  • End official discrimination
    against religious minorities and enact reforms to permit freedom of
    religion and belief.

Excellency, support for Saudi
Arabia, despite its failure to respect human rights, would set a dangerous
precedent, and greatly undermine the legitimacy of both the Human Rights
Council and the General Assembly. Despite the current lack of alternative
candidates in Asia, we ask that you simply not write-in
Saudi Arabia on the ballot. By doing so, the General Assembly will send
an important message about protecting the integrity of the UN human
rights system, and give hope and encouragement to Saudi citizens in
their ongoing struggle for reform and human rights. 

(Photo courtesy of the UN)