Norway’s human rights record has been dragged up for harsh criticism by...Saudi Arabia. The Middle Eastern nation has called for any criticism of religions or the Prophet Mohammed in the country to be made illegal.
Saudi Arabia was joined by other Islamic countries in its critique of Norway’s approach to its Muslim population, according to Norway’s The Local.
Norway’s Foreign Minister, Borge Brende, witnessed the comments in Geneva on Monday at a session of the United Nations' Universal Periodic Review. During the review, all UN members are closely scrutinized by the other constituent states of the body.
Brende noted the irony of Saudi Arabia lambasting a country for its human rights record to Norway’s NTB wire agency.
“It is a paradox that countries which do not support fundamental human rights have influence on the council, but that is the United Nations,” Brende stated, hinting at the absence of a spotless human rights record in the countries doing the finger pointing.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have been extremely vocal in their demands this year that Saudi Arabia soften its clampdown on human rights activists in the country. HRW stated in February that the country is citing “terrorism” in order to ignore due process through the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing.
In January, HRW called Washington's silence on Saudi Arabia's rights record “deafening.” Amnesty International has also called this month for Saudi Arabia to release prominent human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested in relation to his human rights work.
The latest HRW report stated that in 2012, the country had “stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens.”
"Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls and nine million foreign workers.”
It added: “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.”