Today, the UN Human Rights Council reviews the human rights record of Saudi Arabia, the first of 14 countries to be examined in the next two weeks.
Riyadh’s review comes at an especially tense moment—the Jamal Khashoggi murder case is ongoing, with the kingdom at the centre of the controversy. While Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has maintained that he is not implicated in the crime, his explanation of the murder has changed repeatedly.
Turkish investigators determined that Mr Khashoggi was indeed killed by a group of 15 Saudi nationals, but the journalist’s body has yet to be recovered. Last Wednesday, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for an impartial, third-party investigation and demanded that Riyadh produce Mr Khashoggi’s body for an autopsy.
It is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will receive major penalties, but today’s human rights review could seriously taint Prince Salman’s image. While the UN’s review cannot impose sanctions directly, the findings could have major impacts. Even as the headlines fade, many countries and investors may well distance themselves from Riyadh for the time being, potentially inhibiting the oil-dependent nation’s efforts toward economic diversification.
Delve deeper: The murder of Jamal Khashoggi: One step too far?
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Josh analyses the economic impacts of geopolitical developments in emerging economies. He contributes regularly to The Daily Brief.