The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United Nations (UN), who opposes LGBTI rights, was appointed to chair a key panel in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Faisal bin Hassan Trad will chair the five-member Consultative Group, a UNHRC panel that is tasked with naming experts that determine global human rights standards.
Human rights campaigners from the kingdom and across the world sharply criticised the move and expressed their disappointment with the UN.
Despite publicly stating their support for LGBTI rights internationally the British and Scottish governments have remained silent on this matter.
Only two months ago Trad scorned calls for Saudi Arabia to change its anti-LGBTI laws, labelling it as “flagrant interference in its internal affairs, and absolutely unacceptable.”
He also added that LGBTI rights is an insult to Islam.
The Saudi Interior Ministry also made a statement that there would be no rights granted to gay people in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records in the world, consistently ranking among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights. Women’s rights, freedom of expression and association are not respected.
The Saudi religious police have been arresting, torturing and blackmailing hundreds of LGBTI people, sometimes having them subjected to corporal punishment and the death penalty.
In 2012 alone 260 people were arrested by the religious police, according to reports of the local press.
LGBTI people are vilified by the local press and in Ministry of Education schoolbooks, one from 2008 reads: “Homosexuality is one of the most disgusting sins and greatest crimes… The punishment for homosexuality is death… he should be stoned, or thrown from a high place”
The religious police also routinely tries to entrap LGBTI people through social networking and dating sites; Last year a Saudi man was sentenced to 3 years in prison and 450 lashes for meeting men via Twitter.
Being gay is a taboo subject in Saudi Arabian society and is often punished with imprisonment, fines, corporal punishment, capital punishment, whipping/flogging, and chemical castrations. The severity of punishment depends mostly on religious Sunni judges and scholars, as well as royal decrees, and King Abdullah did not shy away from them.
The law in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not strictly codified and its implementation, in either a lenient or severe manner, depends mostly on religious Sunni judges and scholars, as well as royal decrees (and thus subject to extreme variability).
Conviction and severity of punishments depends on the social class, religion and citizenship of the accused, whereby non-western migrant workers receive usually harsher treatment than upper class Saudi citizens.
Ali, a 35 year-old lawyer from Jeddah to KaleidoScot that this sends “a very negative message to LGBTI people across the gulf and the Arab World.
“I would have expected at least a strong opposition from some of the European, North and South American countries that have said they supported LGBTI rights internationally. Where are their voices and objections now?”
Abdulla that chairs the main LGBTI rights group in the Gulf, UAE LGBTI Rights, expressed his shock telling KaleidoScot: “The appointment of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador as the chair of such an important UN human rights panel, is an insult to the very foundation of what the UN claims to represent and advocate for.
“This is a sad day for human rights and an assault against the freedoms that so many people make sacrifices and fight for in the hope to better their societies. By appointing Faisal bin Hasan Trad, the UN seems to say that petrodollars are more important than human rights, and in doing so it has become toothless and morally bankrupt organization.”
Commenting on the news, human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, slammed the UN’s decision, telling KaleidoScot: “This is the biggest farce since Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, not long after he bombed Cambodia to smithereens. It trashes the reputation of the UN and its Human Rights Council – and betrays the many victims of Saudi repression, including LGBTI people who face the death penalty for same-sex relations.
“For the jailed democracy blogger Raif Badawi, it is de facto collusion with his sentence of 10 years jail and 1,000 lashes. The credibility of the UN will be in tatters if this appointment is allowed to stand.”
Maggie Chapman, the co-convener of the Scottish Green Party has issued a condemnation of the appointment and called for a boycott of Saudi Arabia.
The UK government has so far failed to comment on the matter, despite its official stance of supporting LGBTI internationally.
Earlier this year the Scottish government refused to fly the Saltire or the Union Jack half-mast following the death of King Abdullah of the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia, showing its opposition to the countries human rights records.