Saudi Arabia’s human rights record under fire at UN
GENEVA: Saudi Arabia insisted at the UN that its investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be “fair”, amid a barrage of criticism from countries over the brutal murder.
The half-day public debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva comes just over a month after the royal insider-turned-critic was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The so-called Universal Periodic Review — which all 193 UN countries must undergo approximately every four years — came as a Turkish official charged on Monday that Saudi Arabia had sent experts to Turkey to cover up the journalist’s murder before allowing Turkish police in to search the consulate.
During Monday’s review, Western countries especially voiced outrage at the killing, with many calling for a “credible” and “transparent” investigation, and some, like Iceland and Costa Rica, going further and demanding an international probe.
British Ambassador Julien Braithwaite told the council his country was “gravely concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia”, pointing to women’s rights, mass arrests of rights defenders and extensive use of the death penalty.
The Saudi delegation meanwhile barely mentioned the case, choosing instead to highlight the “progress made towards the protection and promotion of human rights”, including reforms that among other things have allowed women to drive in the ultra-conservative country.
But the delegation chief and head of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, Bandar Al Aiban, did touch on the case briefly, stressing at the end of the review that “our country is committed to carry out a fair investigation”. “All persons involved in that crime will be prosecuted,” he said, stressing that “the investigation is continuing in line with our domestic laws”.