On 7th March in a United Nations Human Rights Council Session issued Saudi Arabia a rebuke against its abuse of human rights for the first time. The letter openly called for the release of human rights’ activists jailed for “exercising their fundamental freedoms” and to “disclose all information available” about the case regarding the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This comes after the CIA’s investigation concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing. The investigation of the unlawful killing has sparked international pressure on Saudi Arabia in recent days.
Signatories Iceland, Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, and all 28 European Union countries, also marked a special mention for the release of women rights defenders in the country and bashed the use of torture on female activists. Usually, women in Saudi Arabia are required to obtain permission to work, marry, obtain a passport, and travel from a male guardian thus, limiting their ability to have access to the basic liberties of human beings.
The statement was hailed as “the first-ever collective action” and seen as, in the Human Rights Watch Director John Fisher’s words, “a landmark step towards justice.” Amnesty International has also urged the nation states to employ scrutiny and take a stand against the kingdom’s violations of rights. In response to the criticisms, Saudi Arabia has condemned the use of joint statements for political causes in the United Nations body. The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN, Abdulaziz Alwasil, has boldly cited “interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights as in fact an attack on our sovereignty.”
The gloomy image of the kingdom has led to the appointment of Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud as ambassador to Washington and given women the right to drive in order to rebuild their positive image since it has never been held accountable for its violations and is trying to maintain good relations worldwide. Though Saudi Arabia has refused to take any action and rejected the claims of torture of its female prisoners, continuous pressure may help in many moves such as above. However, the downside is that this rebuke may lead to strained relationships between the kingdom and western countries. In regard to the killing of the journalist, work has been slow due to an uncooperative Saudi Arabian government.
It becomes essential, as human beings, for each to have their choices and rights to be respected regardless of their sex or any other discriminatory factor. This is the responsibility of the entire international community to uphold and promote the dignity of its constituents- something which Saudi Arabia must be reminded of. The fact that it is being discussed means that we are moving towards change.