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Saudi Arabia is making a bid to head the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) just days after it posted a slew of new job openings for executioners who would help carry out beheadings amid a massive uptick in state-sanctioned killings in the country.
Saudi Arabia, which has come under increasing criticism from human rights groups for an uptick in the number of executions in the country, has been a member of the U.N.’s top human rights body since 2014, along with Russia, China, and Cuba.
It is now making a bid to assume lead control over the HRC after 2016, when the presidency rotates to a new nation.
While the HRC has often been dismissed for hosting nations with some of the worst human rights records in the world, its importance in the coming year could be critical to how the international community deals with atrocities in Syria and other Middle Eastern nations.
U.N. Watch, a nonprofit group that monitors the international body, disclosed Saudi Arabia’s intentions in a recent report and urged the United States to fight against it, describing the move as “the final nail in the coffin for the credibility” of the HRC.
“We urge U.S. 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,” Hillel Neuer, the group’s executive director, said in a recent statement.
Neuer compared the possible ascension of Saudi Arabia to the top slot to electing “a pyromaniac as the town fire chief.”
Germany currently heads the HRC, but its term ends in 2016. Elections will be held in early December 2015 for the 2016 term, according to a U.N. official.
The presidency will then rotate to a member of the U.N.’s Asian bloc, which includes Bangladesh, China, the United Arab Emirates, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Maldives, Pakistan, South Korea, Qatar, and Vietnam.
Human rights experts say that Saudi Arabia is not fit to lead the body, particularly amid a rise in executions under the newly crowned King Salman.
On Monday, Suadi Arabia put out advertisements seeking eight new state executioners. These individuals would be responsible for beheading criminals and “performing amputations for those convicted of lesser crimes,” according to Fox News.
David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and lead author of recent report on Saudi human rights abuses, said the autocratic nation would make of mockery of the HRC.
“It’s sadly ironic Saudi Arabia wants to be elected president of the human rights council when its citizens aren’t granted enough civil rights to even have a president or an elected prime minister but are instead ruled by a hereditary autocrat,” Weinberg said.
“That Riyadh wants to head the human rights council when back home it chops off the heads of foreigners and its own citizens in the streets—at a pace nearly three times as fast as last year so that the government is now seeking to hire more willing executioners, rather than transitioning them into retirement,” he added.
Rates of human trafficking are high in Saudia Arabia. The kingdom is currently designated by the United States as a “country of particular concern” regarding religious persecution.
The country also has come under fire in recent months for sentencing a blogger to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for essays critical of the government.
“Saudi Arabia has already used its position at the Human Rights Council to whitewash the crimes of allied but abusive regimes in places like Bahrain and Egypt, and it no doubt will seek to do further harm to the very concept of human rights in other ways as well,” Weinberg said.
Like U.N. Watch’s Neuer, Weinberg urged the United States to “head off this worrisome development at the U.N.”
“To the extent to which the [Obama] administration cares about international governance, it must support an Asian democracy for this position that strives to respect human rights—such as Japan, South Korea, or India—rather than a repressive autocracy like the Saudi state,” he said.
When asked to comment about these reports, a State Department official told the Free Beacon that “as far as we know there are not yet any announced candidates for the 2016 Human Rights Council presidency.”