Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Saudi Arabia's human rights commissioner, was on the hot seat on Monday in Geneva at the United Nations' "Universal Period Review." File Photo by salvatore Di Nolfe/EPA-EFE
Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia was judged harshly in a periodic review Monday by the United Nations, and promised a renewed commitment to human rights.
The Saudi delegation to U.N. headquarters in Geneva also faced criticism by U.N. member states regarding the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The critique came in a "Universal Periodic Review," which each of the 1993 member countries must undergo at a rate of about 42 per year.
The United States delegation condemned what it called Khashoggi's "premeditated killing" in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, the Saudi delegation chief and president of Saudia Arabia's Human Rights Commission, responded, "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has already expressed its regret and pain for the death of Jamal Khashoggi. King Abdel-Aziz has already instructed the prosecution to proceed with the investigation into this case according to the applicable laws and preparation to reaching all facts and bringing all the perpetrators to justice in order to bear the facts to the public."
Forty member states reiterated their request for an investigation, as well as reform of Saudi Arabia's laws regarding freedom of expression.
Al-Aiban defended airstrikes in Yemen that have targeted children and prompted a famine potentially affecting 14 million people. He insisted that Yemen's government and people are receiving Saudi Arabia's "continuous support," and added Yemen has received $11 billion in humanitarian aid from Riyadh since 2015.
He also called freedom of expression "a guaranteed right" in Saudi Arabia. Several member states, including the United States, urged him to clarify the country's definition of terrorism, so that expression or peaceful assembly is not criminalized.
Member states called for Saudi Arabia's abolition of the death penalty and the country's practice of male guardianship of adult women. The Swiss delegation noted that reforms regarding guardianship are only "partially" in place, and that discrimination against women persists.
Although Al-Aiban said reforms were proceeding, U.N. committees have said no law exists in Saudi Arabia to protect a right to free assembly, that there is little female involvement in government and that the number of executions rose sharply between 2013 and 2015.