On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced the start of a dialogue with the European Union regarding the Kingdom’s human rights file.
And the Saudi Press Agency, (SPA), reported that “the first round of joint dialogue between the Kingdom and the European Union in the field of human rights, launched on Monday, at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.”
She added: “The Saudi delegation was headed by the head of the Human Rights Commission, Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, with the participation of the head of the Kingdom’s mission to the European Union, Saad Al-Arify, while the human rights representative of the union, Eamon Gilmore, attended, in the presence of ambassadors and representatives of 22 countries of the Union.”
According to SPA, “Gilmore welcomed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s human rights reforms and holding this dialogue, referring to the importance of the event in forming a new platform for establishing an open dialogue on human rights issues.”
Al-Awwad stressed that these reforms were achieved due to “having a political will.”
The two sides reviewed “several human rights categories that covered freedom of opinion and expression, forming associations, women’s rights, rule of law, religious freedom, right to work,” which bear what international human rights organizations see as “violations” that the Kingdom usually denies.
The meeting witnessed “a number of explanations were raised by the two sides on these issues.”
The Saudi side raised “inquiries about the European Union’s approach to achieving a balance between achieving the right to freedom of opinion and expression and protecting interests.”
Earlier on Tuesday, a statement issued by the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Department said that the latter welcomed, during that session, “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 European and Saudi sides agreed to hold the next meeting in the Kingdom, during the next year, according to the same statement, without specifying a date.
On Monday, the head of the human rights and democratization department in the European Parliament, Louisa Rager, said that the dialogue that began with the Kingdom regarding its human rights file is “very important and is being held for the first time.”
There are many criticisms, especially from international human rights organizations, of the Kingdom, the most prominent of which is related to the arrest of activists, but Riyadh usually emphasizes support for the human rights file in the country and its keenness to achieve justice.