Australia leads at UN Human Rights Council on criticism of Saudi Arabia

Australia leads at UN Human Rights Council on criticism of Saudi Arabia

The Australian Government has used its voice at the UN Human Rights Council to raise concerns of serious human rights abuses committed by Saudi authorities.

Yesterday, Australia delivered a joint statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries calling out the middle-eastern kingdom for its persecution and intimidation of women human rights defenders, its use of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, unfair trials, and arbitrary detention.

Edwina MacDonald, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, welcomed the leadership from the Australian Government to build international pressure on Saudi Arabia for human rights violations such as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul.

“We applaud the Australian Government for taking a principled stand and speaking up about extremely concerning human rights violations that another member of the Council has been committing with impunity,” said Ms MacDonald.

In June 2019, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, Dr Agnes Callamard, presented to the Council her investigation which found Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and urged Council members to take action to ensure accountability for the murder and prevent repetition of such murders.

The Human Rights Council also heard from Lina Al-Hathloul, the sister of women’s human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul, who called on Council members to help her hold those who tortured her sister accountable, and secure her immediate and unconditional release.

“Public condemnation like this from Australia and other countries will increase the pressure on Saudi Arabia to stop persecuting women’s rights activists. If you have a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, then you have an obligation to use it to take leadership on human rights emergencies. This is strong statement and the Australian Government has done well to lead on it,” said Ms MacDonald.

The other countries who endorsed the joint statement are Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, The United Kingdom.

Ms MacDonald said she hoped the Australian Government would continue to speak out about human rights problems around the world, but also warned that it must address a number of its own human rights failings.

“We hope Australia will continue to be a principled leader at the Human Rights Council and follow up on this joint statement at the next session. If it is to truly stand for human rights on the global stage, Australia must also urgently address its own human rights record. We need to stop breaching international law and ignoring countless recommendations from UN experts when it comes to topics like our cruel treatment of refugees,” said Ms MacDonald.

Read the joint statement here and watch Lina Al-Hathloul's statement here.

For further information, please contact:

Tom Clarke, HRLC Campaigns Director, on tom.clarke@hrlc.org.au or 0422 545 763