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EU joins in first scolding of Saudi Arabia

March 7, 2019

Dozens of countries, including all EU members, have delivered a stinging criticism of Saudi Arabia to the UN Human Rights Council. They want Saudi officials to cooperate with an inquiry into the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

Mohammed bin Salman
Image: picture alliance/dpa/SPA

Germany and 35 other countries, including all 28 EU nations, joined in an unusually strong rebuke of Saudi Arabia to the UN's top human rights body on Thursday in Geneva.

The kingdom, currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council, has long faced accusations that it violates human and women's rights, and the October 2018 murder of Saudi journalist and kingdom critic Jamal Khashoggi heightened international criticism.

The statement issued on Thursday was the first rebuke of the kingdom since the UN Human Rights Council was set up in 2006.

Read on behalf of the signatory countries by council member Iceland, the statement directly mentioned Khashoggi's murder and called on Saudi Arabia to disclose "all information available" related to the killing.

Iceland's ambassador to the UN, Harald Aspelund, called for a "prompt, effective and thorough, independent and impartial, and transparent" into the murder.

Khashoggi was killed in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. Saudi officials have admitted he was killed by a special commando team from Riyadh but have denied any ties between the murder and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (above).

A trial is currently underway against 11 individuals.

Demanding release

Aspelund also added that the 36 countries were also concerned about "continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders" in Saudi Arabia, including activists for women's rights.

Some of these activists have reportedly been subject to flogging, sexual assault and other forms of torture.

"We are particularly concerned about the use of the counter-terrorism law and other national security provisions against individuals peacefully exercising their rights and freedoms," Aspelund said, calling on the kingdom to release ten jailed activists, who he named. 

Saudi officials have denied the accusations of torture. 

On Wednesday, UN human rights head Michelle Bachelet called on Saudi Arabia to release women allegedly tortured in detention.

Canada and Australia were among the statement's backers, though the US, Israel and Turkey were not. 

cmb (AP, dpa)

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