EU states criticise Saudi abuses, Switzerland stays silent

Mandatory Credit: Photo by SALVATORE DI NOLFI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10118897j) UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks during the opening of the High-Level Segment of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 25 February 2019. 40th session of the Human Rights Council opening, Geneva, Switzerland – 25 Feb 2019

The statement was once drafted at the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, presently ongoing in Geneva.

(© Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi)
Some 36 nations have signed a statement in Geneva criticizing the human rights problem in Saudi Arabia, in a rare international condemnation of the Gulf kingdom. Switzerland withheld from including its signature.

The international locations, together with all 28 European Union (ecu) member states as well as Australia and New Zealand, signed the assertion on Thursday on the United nations Human Rights Council – the first statement of its type to criticize the normally western-allied Saudi regime.

Amongst different rebukes, the text requires the release of imprisoned females’s rights activists in the kingdom, as good as more space for civil society and human rights businesses.

The textual content also calls on Saudi authorities to cooperate with a UN investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate on October 2 last.

The Saudis have conceded that Khashoggi was once indeed murdered by way of a designated staff dispatched from Riyadh for the cause, and they’ve opened their own investigation involving 11 participants. They nonetheless deny categorically that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman used to be mindful of the operation.

Swiss response muted
though all 28 european participants came along with one voice to sign the announcement (a “success for Europe”, according to an envoy of one european member state), Switzerland declined to add its identify to the list.

The spokeswoman for the Swiss delegation to the UN in Geneva advised the Keystone-SDA company that this selection was once “not when you consider that [Switzerland] disagreed with the contents of the declaration, but considering it has already reacted” to the issues in question.

Following the homicide of Khashoggi final yr, Swiss foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis instructed the Blick newspaper there used to be clear “evidence of human rights violations and the forget for the guideline of law” in Saudi Arabia, and that relations with the state would be “reassessed”.

NGO Amnesty global criticised the Swiss refusal on Thursday to join the UN declaration: this role is “profoundly disappointing and will once once more purpose large injury to the country’s reputation as a defender of human rights,” spokesman Alain Bovard mentioned.

Prior this yr, in January, Swiss finance minister and current president Ueli Maurer downplayed talks of a rift with Saudi Arabia, pronouncing that members of the family have been being normalised.

Nonetheless, it was once uncertain whether or no longer Maurer, keen to boost financial ties with the dominion, expressed his private opinion with out prior session among his colleagues in cabinet.

Saudi Arabia is a key associate for Switzerlandexternal link within the Arab world and the middle East neighborhood, with the 2017 alternate quantity between the 2 international locations standing at CHF2.5 billion ($2.5 billion), in keeping with the State Secretariat for fiscal Affairs (SECO).

Swiss boycott?
House Affairs Minister Alain Berset boycotted an international conference in Saudi Arabia last weekend. Berset’s administrative center said he had another engagement, in step with a document in a number of newspapers on Friday.

As a substitute of Berset, the pinnacle of the Federal health place of business attended the worldwide Ministerial Summit on sufferer security in Jeddah.

Observers say Berset’s absence used to be a political announcement through the minister to protest in opposition to the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul final October.

Ministers from other countries also stayed faraway from the international conference, in step with the newspaper reports.

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