The European Union and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia held their first ever Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels on Monday. It offered an opportunity to have detailed discussions on a wide range of topics.
The EU welcomed the reforms that are taking place in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the socio-economic domain, and significant steps have been taken to advance women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The EU encouraged Saudi authorities to work towards achieving women’s full enjoyment of all human rights.
The EU inquired about planned judicial reforms and acknowledged the changes recently introduced in the kefala (sponsorship) system, including the reforms of labour laws entering into force in March 2020. The EU encouraged the Saudi authorities to extend their scope to domestic workers. Saudi progress on anti-human trafficking was also noted.
The dialogue provided an opportunity to also raise human rights issues of concern. The EU expressed its concerns about the overall restrictive environment regarding civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief. The EU raised the recent increase in executions and encouraged the Saudi authorities to introduce a moratorium as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty. The EU also enquired about conditions in detention and raised several individual cases of Saudi human rights defenders.
The EU further encouraged Saudi Arabia to ratify core international human and labour rights treaties and cooperate with UN Special Procedures. The co-chairs agreed to convene the next Human Rights Dialogue in 2022 in Saudi Arabia.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore led the EU Delegation. The Saudi Delegation was led by the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Awwad Saleh AlAwwad. Representatives from EU Member States attended as observers.