Saudi Arabia: 36 countries condemn Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR)

On 7 March 2019, during the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, 36 countries, including all 28 members of the European Union, signed a statement which condemns the multiple human rights violations perpetrated by Saudi Arabia. Delivered by Hara Aspelund, Iceland’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), the statement represents an explicit reprimand against the infringements of human rights which have been occurring within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since now.

Mr. Aspelund stated “express significant concerns about reports of continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including women’s rights activists.” He mentioned the misuse of the counter-terrorism law against civil society groups and human rights defenders who exercise their basic rights. In this regard, he called upon the Saudi government to immediately release all human rights defenders and political activists, including the women who have been arrested for their campaigning against the male guardianship system and the lifting of the driving ban on women in the country.

Furthermore, the statement strongly condemns the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, by emphasising the need to protect journalists and to “uphold the right to freedom of expression around the world.” Mr. Aspelund urges the Saudi authorities to cooperate with the international inquiry into the killing led by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnès Callamard. To conclude, the statement calls upon Saudi Arabia to freely ensure all the members of the public the exercise of rights within the country “without fear of reprisals.”

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the statement of Mr. Aspelund. ECDHR is relieved to acknowledge that the European Union has stood up against the abuses and human rights violations that have been oppressing the Saudi population. We reiterate our call to end the arbitrary detention of political activists, women’s rights defenders and journalists.

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