A Saudi official has said in an extraordinary statement that an apparent death threat he made against a UN rights officer last year was misunderstood.
Earlier this week, Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur tasked with investigating the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, revealed to the Guardian that an unnamed Saudi official said he would “take care of her” if she didn’t tone down his investigations during a trip to Riyadh in January 2020.
Awwad Al Awwad, the kingdom’s minister of culture and information, admitted in a series of tweets that he may have made such remarks but they were taken out of context.
“I am disheartened that anything I have said could be interpreted as a threat. I am an advocate for human rights and I spend my day working to ensure those values are upheld,” he said in what sounded more like a not-so-creative version of non-apologies we are used to hear from politicians of his calibre.
As if that wasn’t bold enough, the minister then went on to tout the kingdom’s human rights record, saying such misunderstandings undermine his country’s achievements in this regard.
“I truly hope that this story was not concocted to distract from the important work we are doing to advance human rights in Saudi Arabia. No country is advancing faster on reforms than us right now.”
Callamard had concluded in her report that there’s evidence Khashoggi’s murder was directly ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia has for decades ignored international calls to abandon its mistreatment of women.
The country has also come under fire for running a crackdown against Shiite communities living in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
More importantly, over the past years the kingdom has subjected Yemen -one of the poorest Muslim nations- to a deadly war that has in turn caused widespread hunger and disease breakouts. The war has killed thousands of women and children since its start in 2015.