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Report calls for reform of contentious Saudi centre

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Report calls for reform of contentious Saudi centre
The KAICIID headquarters in Vienna. Photo: APA/Neubauer
10:01 CET+01:00
A government report into a Saudi-financed religious dialogue centre which has its headquarters in Vienna has found that the centre is “flawed” and recommended reforms, but warned that closing it could violate international law.

The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) has been strongly criticised for failing to condemn the public flogging of a Saudi blogger and generally remaining silent on human rights issues.

However, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz cautioned against immediately withdrawing support for the centre, something Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has called for, saying that such a move would violate international treaties and damage Vienna’s reputation as a location for international organizations.

The report found that the centre has problems with its structure and communications policy and is unable to speak out on the issue of human rights because of its limited mandate. The centre has initiated several projects, but few have been made available to a wider audience, the report found.

The report concluded that “closing the centre would do nothing to improve the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia”. Faymann must now make a decision on whether to implement the suggested reforms.

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