United Nations Human Rights Council Denounces Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Historical past

Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues have garnered the attention of an international body, which is now stepping up to denounce the country’s actions. 

The United Nations Human Rights Council has issued a statement decrying Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations, aimed at its most recent actions. The statement (via Aljazeera) was signed by 36 countries, including all 28 members of the European Union on Thursday.

This is the first public rebuke of Saudi Arabia since the Council formed in 2006 to address and protect human rights globally. The statement specifically demands that Saudi Arabia release activists currently held in custody and to cooperate with the UN probe into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Iceland Ambassador Harald Aspelund read the statement aloud, saying, “We call on Saudi Arabia to take many full steps to ensure that all matters of the public including human rights defenders and journalists can freely and fully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and association including online and without fear of reprisals.”

The U.S. is a notably absent signature on the statement. The U.S. left the Human Rights Council in 2018 in response to the Council’s criticism of Israel over the treatment of Palestinians. There’s also the checkered history the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia. In recent history, presidents have made an effort to maintain a strong relationship with the Saudi Royal Family, and Trump has talked about the importance of having Saudi Arabia as an ally.

That said, Congress did vote to end support of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen that has resulted in thousands of death, famine, and disease after facing backlash over support of the war and the response to the Khashoggi murder.