As many as 36 countries, including all 28 members of the European Union, have taken Saudi Arabia to task for the first time at the United Nations Human Rights Council over Riyadh’s glaring rights violations.
The group of countries expressed concern about Riyadh’s rights records in a statement issued on Thursday and read out by Iceland.
“It is a success for Europe to be united on this,” an envoy of an EU country told Reuters.
The United States, which considers Saudi Arabia to be one of its allies in the Middle East and maintains strong economic and military cooperation with Riyadh, however, opted out of signing the statement.
The signatories to the statement expressed concern about the kingdom’s so-called counter-terrorism law, which it has been sweepingly using against protesters and dissidents.
“We are particularly concerned about the use of the counter-terrorism law and other national security provisions against individuals peacefully exercising their rights and freedoms,” the statement read.
The Council’s members also called on Riyadh to release 10 prominent rights activists.
Advocacy and rights groups accuse the kingdom of widely using torture against jailed women activists, including those who campaigned for the right to drive, saying they have been subjected to electric shocks, flogging, sexual assault and other forms of torture.