Norway protests against human rights violations in Saudi Arabia

‘I deplore the fact that the punishment of Saudi human rights defender Raif Badawi by public flogging has begun, and call for this to be halted and for Mr Badawi to be released,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende. Mr Brende raised the matter directly with HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in London today.

Last year, Norway protested when Mr Badawi was sentenced to 1 000 lashes, 10 years’ imprisonment, a 10-year travel ban and a fine of 1 million riyals (USD266,000) for having exercised his right to comment on political and religious issues in Saudi Arabian society. 

Norway has raised the matter at regular intervals with the Saudi authorities and in the UN Human Rights Council. Last week, Norway presented its protest against the sentence and the first 50 lashes of the punishment to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Oslo. Norway’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia has today presented a similar protest to the Saudi authorities, and asked for a representative of the Embassy to be allowed to visit Mr Badawi in prison. The Embassy will also protest to the Saudi Human Rights Commission as soon as possible. The case has evoked strong reactions from a number of other countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, as well as the EU. 

‘Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and the sentence against Mr Badawi violates internationally recognised legal norms. I call on the Saudi authorities to heed the massive outcry from the international community. I also urge the authorities to put a permanent stop to floggings and other inhuman forms of punishment,’ said Mr Brende.  

Norway is deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, and has made this clear on a number of occasions. Since the Government took office in October 2013, Norway has raised the issue of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia three times in the UN Human Rights Council. 

‘We urge the Saudi authorities to comply with international human rights norms. It is the responsibility of the authorities to make sure that human rights are not violated. Furthermore, it is their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without risking punishment or persecution,’ Mr Brende said.