- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2013

As the U.N. Human Rights Council scrutinized Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, only a small minority of democracies raised concerns over the kingdom’s oppressive human rights record.

Out of the 102 countries that took the floor in Geneva, more than 80 of them praised Saudi Arabia, UN Watch reported. Canada, U.K. and the Czech Republic were among those who raised concerns.

The watchdog website said that anti-democratic regimes often engage in quid pro quo agreements. For instance, if China praises Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, the kingdom will return the favor when China is reviewed on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia is poised to win a seat on the Human Rights Council in elections next month.

Ruled under Islamic Sharia law, lashing female rape victims and beheading homosexuals, public flogging, amputations and eye-gouging are common.

Dozens of nations commended the kingdom for steps taken to improve the lives of women and children.

Pakistan commended “laudable steps taken by Saudi Arabia to promote and protect the rights of children and women,” UN Watch reported.

France commended the kingdom “with its progress in the role of women in society.”

And Mauritania, a county that still practices slavery, commended Saudi Arabia “for always seeking to strengthen human rights. … We commend Saudi Arabia in terms of the progress on guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, socioeconomic progress, participation of women at all levels and participation in society.”

Turkey also praised the kingdom’s “rise of women in civil service.”

Women activists have begun driving illegally in the kingdom as a form of protest. Saudi Arabia doesn’t outright ban women from driving, but it also doesn’t issue driver’s licenses to women.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry warned citizens against “disturbing the public peace” during a planned protest Saturday by women activists to challenge the driving ban.

“The laws of the Kingdom prohibit activities disturbing the public peace and opening venues to sedition which only serve the senseless, the ill-intentioned, intruders, and opportunity hunters,” the ministry said, adding that authorities will “firmly enforce the laws against violators.”

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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