International criticism rises over Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record

Several countries drew attention to Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record during the fifty-second session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, held in Geneva from February 27 to April 4, 2023.

In their interventions, these countries highlighted the grave and continuous violations in Saudi Arabia, which indicates the gradual renewal of the Human Rights Council’s interest in the Kingdom.

On March 22, during the General Debate for Item 4 on human rights situations that require the attention of the Human Rights Council, three countries – Denmark, Switzerland and Norway – made oral statements on human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.

Denmark condemned the authorities’ continued use of the death penalty and torture. Switzerland expressed concern about Saudi Arabia’s lifting of its short-term moratorium on using the death penalty in drug cases. It called on the authorities to restore the suspension and limit the use of the death penalty to the most severe crimes in accordance with international law. Norway called on Saudi Arabia to implement the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression and assembly.

Saudi Arabia executed 148 people in 2022, more than double the number of people executed in 2021, and 81 of them were executed on March 12, the largest mass execution in recent times.

In addition, executions for drug cases resumed in November 2022, despite an earlier announcement of a moratorium on using the death penalty for non-violent offences.

At the same time, the Saudi authorities have increased their repression of freedom of expression, with an unprecedented number of long prison sentences against individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression.

ALQST also indicated this for Human Rights, the Right Livelihood Foundation and MENA for Human Rights in a joint oral statement before the Human Rights Council.

ALQST welcomed the interventions of Member States, which are helping to restore much-needed international attention to Saudi Arabia’s atrocious record.

Countries made three joint statements on Saudi Arabia between 2019 and 2020. However, international interest in the Kingdom has waned since then, coinciding with a new wave of severe repression, despite the authorities’ failure to address the various concerns.

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