Saudi Arabia expressed “regret and pain” over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and asserted its commitment to achieving the “highest possible standards” in human rights in the country as it was grilled by countries at the UN on Monday over the brutal murder.
The public debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva came just over a month after the royal insider-turned-critic was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Confirming that an investigation is still on-going into the death of Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, President of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban during a scheduled review session told member states that King Salman bin Abdulaziz had personally initiated the probe.
Following Al-Aiban’s comments, 40 Member States appealed to Saudi Arabia to find out what had happened to Khashoggi, many also calling for reform to the Kingdom’s freedom of expression laws.
Saudi Arabia is facing a torrent of international condemnation over the killing of Khashoggi.
Al-Aiban’s comments came as a Turkish official charged Monday that Saudi Arabia had sent experts to Turkey to cover up the journalist’s murder before allowing Turkish police in to search the consulate.
During the review session, around 10 countries also expressed concern about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for coordinating air strikes which have killed civilians.
The Coalition forces are doing their best to spare civilians, particularly women and children, civilian sites, and infrastructure as a side-effect of the armed conflict, Al-Aiban said, adding that Saudi communities near the border with Yemen continue to come under attack from the rebel Houthi movement’s militia.
Amid concerns over freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi representative insisted that it was a guaranteed right, before noting the launch of many multilingual television and radio channels as evidence of people’s right to express their opinions.
Specifically, it urged Saudi Arabia to more clearly define what constituted terrorism in law, so as not to criminalize expression, association or peaceful assembly.