After the public review of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group report on Saudi Arabia, should serve as a blueprint for minimum measures the Saudi authorities must take to abide by their obligations under international human rights law, Amnesty International said.
The report included 354 recommendations from 135 UN member states, many of them calling on the country to take substantive measures to ensure reforms, including in relation to guaranteeing the rights freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, abolishing the death penalty, protecting migrant workers’ rights and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.
“That so many UN member states took this opportunity to confront Saudi Arabia about its litany of human rights abuses and press the country’s authorities for reform shows that without genuine human rights reform, no amount of money spent on image laundering and sportswashing campaigns can conceal the rapidly escalating repression in the country,” said Dana Ahmed, Amnesty International’s Middle East Researcher.
“Saudi Arabian authorities must seize the review’s recommendations as a wake-up call to end their most egregious human rights violations, including the relentless crackdown on freedom of expression, the sentencing of child offenders to death, and the torture and ill-treatment of migrants. The international community should not be hoodwinked by any promises of change by Saudi Arabia, but instead exert their collective influence to ensure crucial rights reforms take place in the country.”
Saudi Arabian authorities must seize the review’s recommendations as a wake-up call to end their most egregious human rights violations, including the relentless crackdown on freedom of expression, the sentencing of child offenders to death, and the torture and ill-treatment of migrants.Dana Ahmed, Amnesty International’s Middle East Researcher
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process under which all UN member states undergo a review of their human rights record every few years at the UN Human Rights Council. Saudi Arabia is now undergoing its fourth review, after the third in 2018. Last week in Geneva a government delegation heard recommendations and responded to questions from states on a range of human rights issues. Saudi Arabia will support or note the recommendations and the Human Rights Council will adopt the outcome report of the review in June.
Since its last review in 2018, Saudi Arabia has failed to implement many of the recommendations it had supported at the time, including recommendations to bring its counterterrorism and cybercrime laws in line with international standards, guarantee and protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, release human rights defenders and all those imprisoned for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, guarantee due process and fair trials, and protect workers from all forms of abuse.
In its July 2023 submission to the UPR, Amnesty International raised concerns about the escalating crackdown on freedom of expression and the increased use of counterterrorism and cybercrime laws to silence dissent; the prosecution of women human rights defenders; the continued due process violations and unfair trials before the Specialized Criminal Court; the rising number of executions; the codification of discrimination against women through a new Personal Status Law; the continued arbitrary detention and forcible deportation of migrant workers; the forced eviction of thousands of residents as part of a plan to develop the city of Jeddah; and the violations committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Amnesty International has welcomed the introduction of some women’s rights reforms, including the elimination of serious restrictions imposed on the rights of women through the male guardianship system, but regrets that while these reforms have had some positive impact on women’s rights and their freedom of movement, they did not entirely eliminate the male guardianship system in line with supported recommendations.