The United Nations announced last month that Saudi Arabia was to lead a key human rights panel. In the following few days, it was announced that Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr, a 17-year-old boy who had been arrested for participating in a protest, was due to be crucified by Saudi Arabian authorities. The young man’s uncle is a political dissenter, as well as a member of the Shi’ite minority in the country. Though the announcement sparked outrage, Saudi Arabia is still set to lead the council despite calls from the United Nations to spare him from execution.
These events coincide with revelations that the U.S. military has instructed its soldiers to ignore the raping of young boys by Afghan police officers. Some U.S. servicemen have even been punished for interfering with the molestations, which are part of a practice known as Bacha Bazi. The continued support from the United States and international community of regimes that promote and commit violent acts needs to end. The United Nations needs to replace Saudi Arabia as head of the human rights panel and denounce the Afghan practitioners of Bacha Bazi. Furthermore, the United States cannot continue to claim to be invested in the protections of human rights and remain complicit in child abuse.
Nations such as the United States and organizations like the United Nations claim to be devoted to the protection of human rights, and yet we see time and again that there is very little backing to these claims. The United Nations is just an organization, and it lacks the strength to interfere with large, powerful countries without the support of equally strong nations. The sense of helpless floundering on the part of United Nations is reminiscent of its predecessor, the League of Nations. The United Nations can’t even get Saudi Arabia to allow investigations into violations of human rights, weakly acquiescing instead to the Saudis investigating themselves. Saudi Arabia is one of the worst human rights abusers in the world, and yet the international community continues to give them space when they should be pressing them to change.
The United States is no better. The U.S. invasion and occupation of areas in Afghanistan was largely prompted by violations to human rights, which the United States took upon themselves to protect. Yet more than a decade after the invasion of Iraq, the United States allows its Afghan allies to rape little boys and expects our soldiers to sleep soundly. The military teaches Marines that the practice of Bacha Bazi is a cultural issue rather than address the morality behind it. By remaining silent, the United States forces its soldiers to be complicit in a practice that is fundamentally wrong, and punishes those who act out against it. If the United States and United Nations want to be taken seriously, they cannot continue to back regimes that violate the same rights that they claim to protect.
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A version of this article appeared in the October 5 print edition. Email Patrick Seaman at [email protected]