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WikiLeaks: UK, Saudi traded votes to secure UN position

March 12, 2019 at 1:57 pm

President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban delivers a speech before the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review on November 5, 2018 in Geneva [Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images]

A new WikiLeaks document has raised suspicion over the appointment of Saudi Arabia – one of the world’s worst human rights offenders – to oversee the UN Human Rights Council. The international non-profit organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media has uncovered secret documents showing that the UK had a major role in the controversial decision.

According to documents released last month by WikiLeaks under the headline: “What has WikiLeaks revealed about David Cameron and the Conservatives”, the UK engaged in secret vote-trading with Riyadh to ensure both states were elected to the UN body. It also suspects that payments may have been made to get the Saudis appointed to the coveted position.

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One of the cables outlines the agreement, saying: “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 shows that Saudi Arabia transferred $100,000 for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the Kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016.” It is unclear where or how this money was spent.

The Saudi cables also reveal Saudi meddling in Bahrain’s internal affairs during the latter’s brutal crackdown on the opposition in 2011. The Saudi government is said to have sent a letter to the British Foreign Secretary at the time, William Hague, and a duplicate letter to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking them to intervene in lifting the arms embargo on Bahrain, claiming the country was facing serious security challenges and violent acts supported by other regional forces.

Details of David Cameron’s disastrous handing of the Libyan invasion were also released in the same document. As the war was still raging, in September 2011, a US cable reveals that Cameron and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy were both jockeying for their oil companies to be rewarded by the new Libyan government due to their role in the war. Adviser to US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal noted:

The two leaders, in private conversations, also intend to press the leaders of the NTC [National Transitional Council] to reward their early support for the rebellion against Muammar Al-Qaddafi. Sarkozy and Cameron expect this recognition to be tangible, in the form of favourable contracts for French and British energy companies looking to play a major role in the Libyan oil industry.

The cable continued: “Cameron appears most concerned that despite British support for the rebels during the fighting, certain members of the NTC remain focused on the fact that the British government and oil industry had good relations with the Qaddafi regime, particularly the firm British petroleum (BP).”

READ: British MPs attack Cameron over Libya’s ‘collapse’

Revelations that are likely to raise serious questions about British intentions in the build up to the Libyan war shows that the UK’s intention was always to overthrow Gaddafi and the UN resolution was mere window dressing. Cameron admitted that deposing Gaddafi was illegal when he told Parliament on 21 March 2011 that UN resolution 1973, authorising the use of force, “explicitly does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gaddafi’s removal from power by military means.” Despite this acknowledgment the decision to remove Gaddafi is said to have been agreed secretly three weeks prior to the UN Resolution.

A report by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee offered harsh criticism of Britain’s 2011 military campaign in Libya. The UK is found to have based its intervention into in the Civil War in Libya on flawed intelligence and said that it bears responsibility for accelerating the country’s descent into economic and political turmoil.