Home » Reports » Saudi Arabia fails to get enough votes from countries, loses seat on Human Rights Council

Saudi Arabia fails to get enough votes from countries, loses seat on Human Rights Council

لقرائته بالعربية اضغط هنا

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia failed to gain membership on the UN Human Rights Council’s 2021-2023 term, during elections held in the General Assembly Hall in New York on 13 October 2020.

Saudi Arabia had nominated itself for a seat in the Asia-Pacific group, which included four seats contested by five countries. While it was not inconceivable for Saudi Arabia to win due to the limited competition, it failed to obtain even the minimum required two-thirds of the votes, i.e., 128 out of the 193 countries that make up the United Nations General Assembly. Meanwhile, the other four countries in the race outperformed Saudi Arabia. China got the next lowest number of votes, beating Saudi Arabia by 49 votes, with Saudi Arabia getting only 90 votes, the lowest among all 16 countries running in the elections.

ESOHR believes that the refusal of many states to vote for Saudi Arabia is a logical response to its shameful toleration of the erosion of human rights.

ESOHR stresses that the lack of votes for Saudi Arabia from HRC member states, in addition to increasing criticisms over recent years, is the result of Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices and abuses, especially its ongoing war in Yemen. Moreover, Saudi Arabia executes adults and children, continues to detain and torture human rights advocates, and has a policy of impunity, particularly in the case of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In addition to individual criticisms, the lack of sufficient votes for Saudi Arabia appears to be an extension of joint positions taken by many states in issuing three statements criticizing Saudi Arabia in just two years: in September 2020, September 2019, and March 2019. Such a precedent would not have occurred if not for the persistent violations and dangerous developments that have escalated during the reign of King Salman.

Saudi Arabia has occupied a seat on the HRC four times previously, despite evidence that it was undeserving of the seat. Saudi Arabia’s violations have driven rights organizations to demand the suspension of its membership, based on UN General Assembly Resolution No. 60/251, that says,  “the General Assembly, by 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.”

ESOHR emphasizes that the countries’ failure to elect Saudi Arabia is the most basic position that should be taken regarding its ongoing abuses. Saudi conduct and practices remain in need of much scrutiny and accountability.



UN Mechanisms:

ESOHR’s tracking of Saudi Arabia’s dealings with UN mechanisms shows that Saudi Arabia has ratified only four of nine foundational conventions and covenants. Moreover, Saudi has not abided by the contents of the four conventions or their own personal pledges and still harbors reservations about certain provisions of the conventions it voluntarily joined.

ESOHR notes that Saudi history demonstrates a disregard for deadlines for submitting periodic reports in some cases, as well as the Saudi government’s use of deception in most of its responses. These practices are made easy due to Saudi Arabia’s policy of silencing civil society domestically through arrest and intimidation. 

For example, despite its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1996, Saudi Arabia has retained the death penalty for children and has executed at least 11 minors in recent years. Although the Saudi government has tried recently to promote blatantly inconclusive statements regarding the execution of children, at least 13 children remain under threat of execution.

Despite its ratification of the Convention Against Torture, Saudi Arabia still refuses to investigate many detainees’ claims of torture, in disregard of their testimony before judges, among them prisoners condemned to death.

Regarding special rapporteurs—UN independent experts tasked with monitoring human rights violations, communicating with countries, and reporting on abuses—Saudi Arabia continues to ignore many of their requests to visit, including the Special Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel treatment, who has been asking to visit since 2006, and continues to do so, without response from Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia chooses to respond to special rapporteurs’ letters with misleading information.

In addition, ESOHR has monitored the Saudi government’s pursuit of individuals through arrest, intimidation, and torture because of their contact with the UN and the HRC. These observations have been confirmed by reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.



*Saudi Arabia’s positions on international conventions and covenants

  Convention Saudi Position
1 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Not Ratified
2 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Not Ratified
3 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Not Ratified
4 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Ratified
5 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Ratified
6 Convention on the Rights of the Child Ratified
7 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families Not Ratified
8 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Ratified
9 Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Not Ratified


*Saudi Arabia’s positions on requests for special rapporteur visits


Special Rapporteur Visit Requests Saudi Position
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges Visit completed in 2002 Completed
Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons Visit requested in 2005 Ignored
Special Rapporteur on violence against women Visit completed in 2008 Completed
Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Visit requested in 2004

Reminder in 2008, 2009, 2015


Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty Visit completed in 2017 Completed
Special Rapporteur on torture Visit completed in 2017 Completed
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion Visit requested in 2006

Reminder in 2008, 2009, 2018

Special Rapporteur on the rights of the disabled Visit requested in 2017 Ignored
Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Visit requested in 2012


Reminder in 2019

Accepted, then ignored
Special Rapporteur on the right of assembly Visit requested in 2013

Reminder in 2018

Working Group on Discrimination Against Women Visit requested in 2018


Special Rapporteur for foreign workers Visit requested in 2018 Ignored
Special Rapporteur on execution Visit requested in 2005

Reminder in 2008, 2019

Special Rapporteur on torture Visit requested in 2006

Reminder in 2007

Visit requested in 2019

Reminder in 2018

Working Group on rights of Africans Visit requested in 2020 Ignored
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Visit requested in 2008

Reminder in 2011


Check Also

After long hiatus, court resumes trial of minors, and the prosecution insists the death penalty

لقرائته بالعربية اضغط هنا On 29 October 2020, the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh held …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *