WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Handshake between the UK and Saudi Arabia

Secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks have confirmed a secret deal between the British Government and Saudi Arabia to ensure that both countries were elected to the United Nations’ influential Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2013.

The Australian reports a secret handshake that involved vote-swapping may have been the cause for the appointment of Saudi Arabia to the UN human rights council, at a time when it is receiving worldwide criticism for the death sentence handed to a teenager accused of pro-democracy protests.

human rightsThe Saudi Arabian criminal justice system has its foundations in stringent Sharia law, different from the law that the UNHRC takes to.

For instance, the capital punishment in Saudi Arabia can be imposed for “crimes” such as sorcery and witchcraft.

The British government is revealed to be substantially involved in the appointment of Saudi Arabia into the council, a country deemed as “one of the most prolific executioners in the world”, according to a recent 2015 report by Amnesty International.

The entire cache of Saudi cables hosted on Wikipedia can be found here.

Over 60,000 secret cables from the Saudi Foreign Ministry were gathered by WikiLeaks and released in June. The cables, dated January and February 2013 were mostly in Arabic and translated by The Australian and the UN Watch.

One of the secret cables read:

The ministry might find it an opportunity to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom to the membership of the Council for the period 2014-2015 in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Another cable showed proof of money being transferred to the UK, to the tune of $100,000. The money was for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the Kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016.”

As it turned out, both countries were elected to the UNHRC, counting themselves among 47 member states.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent human rights organization that helped translate the cables, said while speaking to the Australian:

Based on the evidence, we remain deeply concerned that the UK may have contracted to elect the world’s most misogynistic regime as a world judge of human rights.

A spokesman speaking for the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, when asked if Britain had a ‘secret pact’ with Saudi Arabia, said:

“As is standard practice with all members we never reveal our voting intentions or vote. The British government’s position on human rights is a matter of public record. We regularly make our views well known, including through the UN Universal Periodic Review process and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual Human Rights and Democracy Report, and raise human rights concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities.”

Neuer disagreed with the statement, pointing to countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh who openly revealed their voting pact.

The claim of the Foreign Office that concealing a country’s UN vote is a ‘standard practice’ with ‘all members’ is manifestly false.

“UN Watch finds it troubling that the UK refuses to deny the London-Riyadh vote-trade as contemplated in the Saudi cable, nor even to reassure the public that their voting complies with the core reform of the UNHRC’s founding resolution, which provides that candidates be chosen based on their human rights record, and that members be those who uphold the highest standards of human rights.”

There have been several cases of ‘vote-trading’ being looked into in the past. Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the UN put an end to the UN Commission on Human Rights, the predecessor to the UNHRC, due to member states engaging in vote trading.

Saudi Arabia was also revealed to be trading votes with Russia to gain a place in the UNHRC, from evidence acquired in June this year.

Being an influential UNHRC member has already helped Saudi Arabia, according to Neuer.

“No one ever has even tried to hold Saudi Arabia to account with a resolution, special session, commission of inquiry or suspension of their membership,” he said. “The US, EU and other democracies give the Saudis a free pass.”

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Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.