Amnesty calls on EU to address human rights concerns in meeting with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been consistently ranked among the world’s worst abusers of human rights and civil liberties. It is also among the top users of the death penalty and has been heavily criticized for its devastating role in the war in Yemen, which has caused thousands of civilian casualties

September 28, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
UK-Saudi arms sale
(Photo: Campaign Against Arms Trade/Flickr)

Human rights organization Amnesty International urged the European Union (EU) to call out Saudi Arabia for its dismal human rights record and sustained repression of civil liberties in their bilateral meeting on human rights that was held on Monday, September 27, Middle East Eye reported. Amnesty called upon the EU to speak up for the many human rights defenders, political and women’s rights activists, and others in Saudi Arabia fighting for basic civil liberties which have long been withheld in the tightly-controlled ultra-conservative state. In the aftermath of the meeting, the European Union External Action Service (EUEAS), in a press statement, said that “The EU welcomed the reforms that are taking place in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the socio-economic domain, and significant steps have been taken to advance women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.” The EU also reportedly called for

In its statement yesterday, Amnesty said that the EU “must use this opportunity to ask tough questions of Saudi Arabian authorities on their human rights abuses, and not let them whitewash their atrocious record. The authorities put executions and punitive trials on hold during the Saudi presidency of the G20 last year, but they were quickly resumed once the spotlight was off. The EU needs to publicly speak out for human rights defenders, and against the government’s crackdown on freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia.” Director of Amnesty’s EU office, Eve Geddie, further added that “human rights defenders arbitrarily detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia must all be immediately freed, and the EU must be robust in its defence of these brave individuals, who are defending the rights of everybody in Saudi Arabia.” The EUEAS statement said that during the meeting, the EU expressed its concern over the “overall restrictive environment regarding civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief.”

Amnesty also pulled up the EU for neglecting these critical rights issues in its relations with Saudi Arabia in favor of other geopolitical and economic concerns. Human rights groups have for years denounced the rights abuses and repression taking place in Saudi Arabia. The Human Rights Measurement Initiative has termed Saudi Arabia to be one of the world’s worst rights abusers, and various death penalty watchdogs have in the past found it to be one of the world’s most prolific countries in terms of using capital punishment, reportedly even in cases where the alleged crimes are drug offenses or homosexuality. 

While Saudi Arabia has been widely criticized for the massive civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Yemen due to its military intervention involving thousands of indiscriminate airstrikes, western countries continue to supply it with the most sophisticated and advanced weapons and technology. This is in total disregard of international human rights laws and laws regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity, which forbid arms supplies to countries committing them. On the contrary, western countries have often aided Saudi Arabia to defend its actions and whitewash its image through various global economic, cultural and sports events, such as the World Economic Forum, G20 Summit, wrestling matches, Formula 1 racing events, and others, in an attempt to distract focus and attention from the issues concerning human rights, international law and war crimes.

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