At least 36 countries, including all 28 EU members, have signed a statement criticising Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday, diplomats said.
The statement is the first rebuke of the kingdom since the U.N. forum was set up in 2006.
The text, to be read out by Harald Aspelund, Iceland’s ambassador to the Geneva talks, calls on Saudi authorities to release women activists and cooperate with a U.N.-led probe into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2.
“It is a success for Europe to be united on this,” an envoy of an EU country told Reuters.
Some of the women, including those who campaigned for the right to drive, have been subjected to electric shocks, flogging, sexual assault and other forms of torture, activists say.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to release women activists allegedly tortured in detention after authorities accused them of harming the country’s interests.
The Saudi deputy public prosecutor told Saudi-owned newspaper Alsharq Alawsat last week that his office had looked into media reports that the women were tortured and found no evidence, calling the reports “false”.