Saudi Arabia criticises Norway over human rights record

Gulf state calls for all criticism of religion to be criminalised

Felicity Morse@FelicityMorse
Tuesday 29 April 2014 17:18
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Saudi women, forbidden to drive, board a taxi in Riyadh
Saudi women, forbidden to drive, board a taxi in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has criticised Norway's human rights record, accusing the country of failing to protect its Muslim citizens and not doing enough to counter criticism of the prophet Mohammed.

The gulf state called for all criticism of religion and of prophet Mohammed to be made illegal in Norway. It also expressed concern at “increasing cases of domestic violence, rape crimes and inequality in riches” and noted a continuation of hate crimes against Muslims in the country.

The Scandinavian nation came under scrutiny during the United Nations' Universal Periodic Review, in which 14 States are scheduled to have their human rights records examined.

Russia meanwhile called for Norway to clamp down on expressions of religious intolerance and and criticised the country’s child welfare system. They also recommended that Norway improve its correctional facilities for those applying for asylum status.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende was in Geneva to hear the concerns from 91 other countries. He told Norway's NTB newswire prior to the hearing: “It is a paradox that countries which do not support fundamental human rights have influence on the council, but that is the United Nations,” reported The Local.

Human Rights Watch last report noted that in 2012 Saudi Arabia "stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens."

It continued "Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, thousands of people have received unfair trials or been subject to arbitrary detention. The year has seen trials against half-a-dozen human rights defenders and several others for their peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms."

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