West puts Saudi Arabia’s human rights record under spotlight



Two dozen, mainly European, countries voiced deep concern yesterday over alleged torture, unlawful detentions and unfair trials of critics, including female activists and journalists, in Saudi Arabia. It was the second joint statement criticizing the kingdom read out at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in six months, following the first-ever censure of Saudi Arabia at the forum in March.

Fifteen European Union members, including Britain and Germany, were among the signatories, as well as Canada, New Zealand and Peru, diplomats said. “We remain deeply concerned at the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. Civil society actors in Saudi Arabia still face persecution and intimidation,” Australia’s Ambassador Sally Mansfield said, reading out the statement. “We are concerned about reports of torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, unfair trials and harassment of individuals engaged in promoting and defending human rights, their families and colleagues,” she said.

The joint statement urged Saudi authorities to uncover the truth about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the its Istanbul consulate last October and ensure that the perpetrators are held to account. The brutal murder of Khashoggi has highlighted the grim human rights record of the country. Riyadh initially denied any role in the killing but has since sought to blame his death on a botched operation carried out by rogue agents. Agnes Callamard, the U.N. expert on extrajudicial executions worldwide, said in a report last June that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials should be investigated for Khashoggi’s murder given what she called credible evidence against them. In Riyadh, a minister rejected the report at the time as offering nothing new and containing “baseless allegations.” The Saudi public prosecutor has indicted 11 suspects, including five who could face the death penalty, for the crime.

The ongoing Yemen war has also revealed multiple violations of human rights by the kingdom. Schools and hospitals in the war-torn country have come under frequent attack, threatening the lives of many children. Saudi-led attacks have killed nearly 4,600 out of the 7,000 verified civilians who have died in the war, according to recent figures by the U.N. Human Rights Office. The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been using weapons produced in Europe and the U.S. to kill and wound thousands of civilians in Yemen, according to a report released by a Yemen-based human rights group earlier this year.

Palestinian and Jordanian prisoners tortured, report saysSaudi Arabia is accused of torturing Palestinians and Jordanians held in detention for months, according to the Palestinian human rights organization based in Lebanon, Shahed, calling on Saudi authorities for their immediate release. A total of 48 Palestinians and Jordanians who have been residing in Saudi Arabia for many years were detained under operations launched in February. The report stated that many of them were subjected to various form of physical and psychological torture. Detention operations have not been announced due to a lack of information and families’ fear of Saudi Arabia authorities.



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