Alwaght- Members of the UN’s Human Rights Council denounced the Saudi Arabia's human rights record and condemned the West-backed regime's use of torture and unlawful detentions and unfair trials of critics, including female activists and journalists.
The joint statement, which was read out at a meeting of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, represents the second time in six months that the body has criticized the oil-rich kingdom, following a similar statement in March, The Guardian reported.
Members urged Saudi regime to establish the truth about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Istanbul consulate last October, and ensure that the perpetrators are held to account.
Ironically, Saudi Arabia is among the council’s 47 member states. The Saudi ambassador left the room about an hour before reading the statement.
Among those who addressed the Human Rights Council meeting was Lina al-Hathloul, whose sister – the Saudi women’s activist Loujain al-Hathloul – was arrested last year and allegedly tortured, and whose release she called for.
Loujain al-Hathloul was among about a dozen prominent activists who were arrested in May 2018 in the weeks before a ban on women driving cars in the conservative kingdom was lifted, apparently as a sop to hardline conservative elements in the kingdom, who opposed the lifting of the driving ban.
In an address to the council, al-Hathloul raised the detention of her sister and other female activists.
"Loujain was imprisoned for promoting the implementation of the Vienna declaration of human rights which affirms the full and equal enjoyment by women of all human rights.
"Loujain did not get to drive in her home town of Riyadh because she was arrested right before the Saudi government lifted the driving ban for women".
She added that her sister had been labelled a “traitor” for her women’s rights activism. “They tortured her and then attempted to trade her freedom in exchange for her publicly denying [her] torture".
Human rights organizations have, however, documented widespread use of torture in extracting confessions, including from individuals subsequently executed for participating in protests when they were minors.
The focus on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has intensified since the murder of Khashoggi, which has been widely blamed on the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Agnes Callamard, the UN 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 over Khashoggi’s murder given what she called credible evidence against them.
Although the joint statement acknowledged Saudi reforms, including the announcement last month that restrictions on the rights of women to travel will be lifted, it said deep concerns remained.
"However, 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 at 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.