UK lawyers seek to suspend Saudi Arabia from UN rights body

Saudi Arabia's King Salman grants the Order of Abdulaziz al-Saud medal to US President Donald Trump at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (AFP photo)

Two British human rights lawyers have announced their plan to pursue suspension of Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council after 61 people were arbitrarily detained or disappeared in a recent round of Riyadh’s crackdown on public dissent.

In a Tuesday statement, lawyers Ken Macdonald and Rodney Dixon announced that they will submit their report to the Council in Geneva on Wednesday, stressing that the detentions carried out in September 2017 were "in breach of both Saudi and international law."

The report has accused the Saudi officials of "targeting human rights activists, political dissidents and others merely exercising their right to free speech."

The arrests are "part of an ongoing, established and long-running pattern of abuse" by the Riyadh regime, the statement said.

The report said Saudi authorities started the wave of arrests on September 10 by detaining prominent clerics including Salman al-Awdah and Awad al-Qarni, noting, "There are credible reports of mistreatment and torture during their detention."

The UN General Assembly "must urgently consider" suspending Saudi Arabia's membership of the Human Rights Council under a resolution that allows this in case of members that commit "gross and systematic violations of human rights," the lawyers said.

A member of the media takes pictures of an area destroyed by Saudi Security forces in the Saudi town of Awamiyah on August 9, 2017. (File photo)

Amnesty International has warned that human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has "deteriorated markedly" since Mohammed bin Salman took over as crown prince in June 2017.

Under the Saudi cyber crime law, dozens of Saudi citizens have been convicted on charges linked to dissent over posting comments on Twitter.

In November 2017, Saudi Arabia introduced a new counter-terrorism law that includes penalties of up to 10 years in jail for insulting the king and crown prince as well as the death penalty for other acts of "terrorism."

The new legislation, which replaces another widely criticized counter-terrorism law introduced in 2014, comes as Mohammed bin Salman consolidates power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.

Over the period, Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution, and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

The kingdom has also stepped up security measures in the Shia-majority Eastern Province, which has seen numerous protest rallies against religious persecution.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia has been leading a war on Yemen since March 2015 which has killed over 12,000 Yemenis and ruined much of the infrastructure of the impoverished Arab country.

The UN has described the situation in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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