Parliamentary question by Olivier Dupuis (TDI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Olivier Dupuis (TDI) to the Commission
(24 November 1999)

Subject: The situation in Saudi Arabia

International organisations and the reports adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1998/44, paragraphs 19 and 21; E/CN.4/1998/43, paragraphs 13 and 405; E/CN.4/1998/68, paragraphs 89 and 92) have provided substantial information indicating a very serious situation with regard to human rights and fundamental freedoms in Saudi Arabia.

The UN Commission on Human Rights has condemned the use of arbitrary detention, torture, forced or involuntary disappearances, and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions by the Saudi authorities (for example, those executed in 1997 included over 70 foreign nationals and the death penalty is carried out even against people who were minors at the time they committed the offence). The authorities in Riyadh routinely exercise very heavy repression against political opponents (total ban on political parties) and religious minorities and subject the press to total control. Arrests for expressing certain views are increasing. Amputation as a punishment is still widely practised.

What is the Commission's position on the situation in Saudi Arabia?

What action has the Commission taken or does it intend to take to make the Saudi authorities show at least minimum respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms?

Answer given by Mr Patten
on behalf of the Commission
(8 December 1999)

The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia does indeed give cause for concern. There is no specific agreement between the Community and Saudi Arabia which would provide the framework for direct exchange of views and dialogue. A regular political dialogue has been established between the Community and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries within the context of the Union's cooperation agreement with the GCC countries, which include the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.

At a meeting of regional directors between the Community and the GCC in Riyadh in mid-October 1999, the whole range of political and social matters were discussed, including human rights. In this forum, in particular the questions of womens' and childrens' rights, the death penalty, and human rights in general were discussed.