Human Rights Violations: King Abdullah Center Moves from Vienna to Geneva

OrganizationsInternational Organizations ♦ Published: June 19, 2020; 17:13 ♦ (Vindobona)

After years of criticism, and after the Austrian National Council decided to close it down last year, the controversial Abdullah Centre in Vienna is now apparently leaving Austria and moving to Switzerland.

Meeting room of the KAICIID - King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. / Picture: ©

On 13 October 2011 the agreement on the foundation of the "KAICIID - King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue" was signed in the premises of the Albertina in Vienna by the then Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger, Prince Saud al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia and Spain's Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez García-Herrera.

The high-ranking guests included representatives of Austria's churches and religious communities as well as renowned Austrian religious scholars.

As an international organisation, the Centre was to have its headquarters in Vienna and "offer a platform for dialogue between the world religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as between other religious communities". 

The International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, which was largely financed by Saudi Arabia and was called KAICIID - King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, was mostly controversial in the nine years of its existence.

Often politicians demanded a closure. Only the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) did not support this demand.

Calls for the closure of the centre were raised, among other things, because of the Saudi government's actions against regime critics and demonstrators.

As reported by, the death sentence of 18-year-old Murtaja Qureiris in 2019 in Saudi Arabia was the immediate cause.

In June 2019 under the interim government of Brigitte Bierlein, the Austrian National Council finally decided to close the King Abdullah Center in Vienna.

The Foreign Ministry under Alexander Schallenberg had to implement the corresponding majority decision of the parliament.

At that time, the Austrian People's Party spoke out in favour of a new centre under the auspices of the UN.

As the "Kurier" reported today, the institution itself apparently decided to move under the resulting pressure.

"The institution had already made this decision a few days ago. A spokesperson for the center did not want to confirm or deny the report for the time being."

"It was confirmed, however, that the number of member states of the Abdullah Centre would probably be increased."

"Already in 2018, the center had announced that it would accept new member states. Negotiations on this matter are ongoing and have already progressed, a spokesperson explained. However, there are no final results yet."