Thirty-six countries, including all 28 European Union (EU) countries, yesterday submitted a joint statement to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, condemning Saudi Arabia for the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a representative announced yesterday.
The statement was the first rebuke addressed to the kingdom at the UN council since it was set up in 2006. It also came amid growing international concern over the alleged Saudi government’s human rights violations.
The unprecedented joint statement, also backed by Canada and Australia but not the United States (US), was read out during the council’s session by Iceland’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Harald Aspelund.“It is a success for Europe to be united on this,” Aspelund told Reuters.
The joint statement called for the release of the currently-jailed Saudi activists Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, Aziza Al-Yousef, Nassima Al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, Amal Al-Harbi and Shadan Al-Anezi. It also demanded the kingdom’s “prompt, effective and thorough, independent and impartial, and transparent” cooperation into the Khashoggi case investigation.
“We [EU and Western countries] 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, reading the statement’s text.
Activists, he stressed, should play “a vital role in the process of reform which the Kingdom is pursuing.”Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Riyadh government, was killed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul last October. Riyadh initially denied any role in the killing but has since sought to blame his death on a botched operation carried out by rogue agents. His death fueled simmering discontent in Washington over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and heavy civilian casualties in Yemen’s civil war, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.