Election to Human Rights Council Should Bring Concrete Improvements
"(Geneva) – Other countries should use the rare opportunity for scrutiny of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record on October 21, 2013, to press for concrete steps to end abuses. Country representatives gathering in Geneva for the United Nations Human Rights Council’s periodic review of Saudi Arabia should press for actions that include the immediate release of Saudi activists jailed over the past year solely for peacefully advocating reform.
Saudi Arabia has convicted seven prominent human rights and civil society activists since the beginning of 2013 – including Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Mikhlif al-Shammari, and Wajeha al-Huwaider – on broad, catch-all charges, such as “trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom,” “breaking allegiance with the ruler,” and “setting up an unlicensed organization.” Saudi courts are currently trying others, including the human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, on similar charges and authorities have harassed and placed travel bans on dozens more.
“Many countries have problematic records, but Saudi Arabia stands out for its extraordinarily high levels of repression and its failure to carry out its promises to the Human Rights Council,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Countries should use this opportunity to send a strong, unified message that Saudi Arabia needs to make critical human rights reforms.”
Despite longstanding reform promises, the government of Saudi Arabia has failed to make substantive changes, Human Rights Watch said. In particular, it should improve its arbitrary criminal justice system, abolish the system of male guardianship over women, and throw out discriminatory aspects of its sponsorship system for foreign workers, which leave workers vulnerable to abuses including forced labor. Saudi Arabia also stands out for its failure to heed the recommendations of its most recent Human Rights Council review, in February 2009.
Human Rights Watch submitted its own human rights assessment of Saudi Arabia to the Human Rights Council in advance of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), highlighting key concerns and necessary steps to address them.
The UPR comes just weeks before Saudi Arabia’s bid for a three-year seat on the Human Rights Council. States will choose 14 countries to replace the ones scheduled to rotate off......."