GENEVA (Dispatches) – Dozens of Western countries called on Tuesday for the release of women activists detained in Saudi Arabia and for those behind the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be brought to justice.
Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union at the United Nations Human Rights Council, decried Saudi Arabia’s "prolonged detentions of women rights defenders”, including Loujain al-Hathloul.
At least a dozen prominent women’s rights activists were arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2018 as it lifted a ban on women driving cars, a step that many of the detainees had long campaigned for.
Several of the arrested women say they have suffered torture and sexual assault in detention.
Denmark’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Morten Jespersen, read out a joint statement on behalf of 29 countries -- including Australia, Britain and Canada -- urging the kingdom to "release all political detainees” and voicing concern at the detention of "at least five women activists”.
They include al-Hathloul, Nouf Abdelaziz, Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sadah, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, and Miyaa Al-Zahrani, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) said in a statement.
John Fisher of Human Rights Watch denounced Saudi Arabia’s "brutal targeting of defenders and dissidents” and urged the release of the women activists and "others arbitrarily detained”.
Separately, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was alarmed by the "deteriorating” conditions for Ethiopian migrants detained in Saudi Arabia and was seeking access to those in need of urgent aid.
On Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, Germany’s ambassador, Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg, said "We stress the need for full accountability and transparent prosecution of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” added
A Saudi court this month jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for the murder. The trial drew criticism from a UN investigator and from human rights campaigners who said the masterminds of the murder remained free.
None of the defendants were named in what was described as the final court ruling on the killing.
Khashoggi -- a royal family insider turned critic -- was killed and dismembered, in a case that tarnished the reputation of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi, a 59-year-old, was strangled and his body cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi squad inside the consulate, according to Turkish officials. His remains have not been found.
Riyadh has described the murder as a "rogue” operation, but both the CIA and a United Nations special envoy have directly linked bin Salman to the killing.
Agnes Callamard - the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions - also found "credible evidence” that bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials were liable for the killing in an investigative report published in June 2019.