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UN in friction with Saudi over free speech

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, in rare public comments on Saudi Arabia, said on Friday that people were unlawfully held in the kingdom and urged it to uphold freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.

Bachelet, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council where Saudi Arabia is among the 47 members, welcomed the release earlier this month of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, adding: “although I regret that others continued to be unjustly detained”.

Hathloul campaigned for women’s right to drive and to end Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system that requires women to obtain permission of a male relative for certain decisions and travel. She spent nearly three years behind bars in a case that drew international condemnation, and remains forbidden to leave Saudi Arabia for five years.

Bachelet did not refer to the expected release by the Biden administration of a sensitive U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

She welcomed plans announced by Saudi authorities to adopt new legislation to strengthen what she said were human rights guarantees linked to family law and personal status.

“I urge the authorities to also establish legislative frameworks to uphold the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association for everyone in the Kingdom,” Bachelet told the Geneva forum.

Source: Reuters

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