Saudi Arabia faces increasing pressure to release detainees and cooperate in the Khashoggi case

Saudi Arabia has faced more pressure in the United Nations Human Rights Council, with renewed international demands for the release of prisoners of conscience and cooperation in the investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which Riyadh has refused to internationalize.

During a session held Thursday at the headquarters of the Council in Geneva, Switzerland, the representative of Britain criticized Saudi Arabia's rejection of recommendations on standards for the trial of female activists detained.

The British delegate said his country was concerned about Saudi Arabia's human rights record, particularly with regard to restrictions on the freedom of religious belief of minorities and restrictions on freedom of expression, including the mass arrest of activists, journalists and academics, the targeting of political opponents and the continued application of the death penalty.

He also expressed London's concern about the continued detention of women activists and alleged torture and ill-treatment. He referred to reports that a number of detained women activists - such as Jain al-Hathul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Samar Badawi and Nasima al-Sada - were tortured, harassed and threatened with death.

Amnesty International renewed Amnesty International's call for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights activists.

On the other hand, the head of the Saudi human rights body, Bandar bin Mohammed al-Aiban, defended his country's human rights record. He said freedom of expression, association and legitimate peaceful practices were guaranteed by Saudi law, while denying secret detention in the kingdom.

Al-Aiban also defended his country's treatment of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying that it had taken the necessary measures in this regard, but he refused to internationalize this issue despite all the international positions condemning the blackout surrounding the trial of those accused of involvement in Khashoggi's assassination.

He said that the Saudi courts are in the trial of those arrested in this case, considering that the participation of any foreign experts in the investigation is a violation of Saudi sovereignty.

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Strong criticism
"What drew attention during the review of the Saudi dossier in the Human Rights Council was the harsh criticism of the Kingdom's human rights record and the actions of the Saudi regime towards its citizens, especially against human rights activists," said Al-Jazeera correspondent Hafez Mribih.

He added that most of the criticism focused on ill-treatment and extra-judicial detention and trials outside the framework of international law, as well as accusations of secret prisons and trials outside the scope of international law, in violation of the agreements signed by Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has also been criticized by several parties participating in the meeting today for not cooperating in the investigation conducted by the UN on the death of Khashoggi, while several calls for the immediate release of prisoners of conscience and stop trials in violation of international law in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to Britain, Belgium, Amnesty International, Human Rights and Saudi Arabia's International Human Rights Foundation - during the same session - criticized Riyadh for the human rights situation and noted that there was an agreement between Saudi Arabia and its allies - Bahrain, Yemen and some African countries - to make these recommendations "light" not rejected by the Saudi side.

The meeting comes about a week after the signing of a statement condemning the Kingdom for its human rights record, 36 countries on the Human Rights Council, including all EU member states.

As it comes a day after the publication of an annual report of the US State Department, reviewed the human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, and criticized the treatment of its judiciary with the assassination of Khashoggi.

In conjunction with this meeting, the Turkish-Saudi Presidency called for the disclosure of the names of the accused who are being tried in Khashoggi case, and to reveal the charges against them.

ref: aljazeera