The Al Saud regime has faced unprecedented international criticism over its human rights record, including continuing to suppress freedom of expression, arresting dissidents and activists, and failing to hold accountable those responsible for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in October 2018.
Last month, 29 countries said that the Al Saud regime should release all political opponents and women’s rights activists, provide accountability for past violations, and end persistent discrimination against women.
The statement presented by Denmark at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva indicated that although Saudi Arabia has made some reforms regarding women’s rights and limits the use of the death penalty against child offenders in recent years, the overall human rights situation remains a cause for concern.
The statement highlighted the Saudi government, which is effectively led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which has arbitrarily arrested dozens of political opponents, human rights activists and others since 2017.
At the time, “Human Rights Watch” said that member states of the Human Rights Council should support the joint statement, which is considered a rare and important opportunity to pressure Saudi Arabia about its human rights violations.
“Saudi Arabia would like the world to forget its continued arbitrary detention of dozens of political opponents and human rights activists, but the joint statement sends a strong signal that Saudi Arabia must stop its arbitrary treatment of these individuals,” said John Fischer, Geneva office director at Human Rights Watch. Saudi Arabia’s ambition to become a member of the Human Rights Council contradicts its record of impunity for torture and other violations in recent years.
Iceland, in March 2019, and Australia in September 2019, previously submitted joint statements on Saudi Arabia at the Human Rights Council. Human Rights Watch said that Saudi Arabia has not addressed the serious human rights concerns raised in the previous two statements, and the council should continue to be interested.
In a joint public letter addressed to foreign ministers from last month, 30 NGOs provided details of Saudi Arabia’s continued detention, persecution and harassment of human rights defenders, new waves of arrests, allegations of torture, ill-treatment and deaths in detention, and a continuing climate of impunity.
At the Council session in June 2019, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions presented a damning report after her investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The rapporteur said that Khashoggi’s killing reflects a wider crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists and dissidents, as well as a culture of impunity at the highest levels.
Human Rights Watch has extensively documented the Saudi authorities’ crackdown on independent dissidents and activists, including waves of mass arrests, marred by a lack of due process and credible allegations of torture.
Many Saudi dissidents and activists, including prominent women’s rights defenders, remain in detention while they and others face unfair trials on charges related solely to their public criticism of the government or their peaceful human rights work.
In September, Human Rights Watch issued a statement expressing concern over the incommunicado detention in Saudi Arabia of women’s rights activists and other human rights defenders, prison overcrowding, including in the context of the coronavirus outbreak, denial of access to health care, and deaths In custody under suspicious circumstances.
International human rights organizations demand the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to stop the brutal targeting of human rights defenders and dissidents in Saudi Arabia and to ensure the release of women’s rights activists and other arbitrarily detained persons.
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