TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - In a statement on Tuesday, the UN expert slammed a “worrying pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detention" of religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and activists under the pretext of the kingdom's counter-terrorism and security-related laws.
"We are witnessing the persecution of human rights defenders for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and belief, as well as in retaliation for their work," the experts said.
In November 2017, Saudi Arabia introduced a new counterterrorism law that includes penalties of up to 10 years in jail for insulting the king and crown prince as well as the death penalty for other acts of "terrorism."
The new legislation, which replaces another widely criticized counterterrorism law introduced in 2014, comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman consolidates power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.
The passage of the legislation coincided with a major government crackdown on the kingdom's elites, ostensibly to fight corruption.
In February last year, Human Rights Watch warned that Saudi Arabia had stepped up the politically-motivated arrests, prosecution, and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners since the beginning of the current year.
Several rights groups have strongly denounced Riyadh’s relentless crackdown on human rights campaigners in the kingdom.
The kingdom has also stepped up security measures in the Shia-majority Eastern Province, which has seen numerous protest rallies against religious persecution.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia has been leading a war on Yemen since March 2015 which has killed over 12,000 Yemenis ruined much of the infrastructure of the impoverished Arab country.
The UN has described the situation in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.