Saudi Arabia: paying the price for raising human rights

Amnesty International highlights two cases of severe human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia

As King Abdullah begins his second day of his UK state visit, Amnesty International has urged the UK Government to raise the grave human rights abuses currently taking place in Saudi Arabia during their meetings.

Amnesty International has regularly documented cases of serious violations of human rights within Saudi Arabia.

In February this year, at least ten men said to have been targeted because they defended human rights and peacefully advocated political change were arrested in the cities of Jeddah and Madinah.

These men, who include two lawyers, two university professors and a medical doctor, were arrested because the Ministry of the Interior is reported to have claimed that they were collecting money to “help terrorism”.

They are still being held incommunicado. They are reportedly detained in the offices of the General Intelligence Service (al-Mabahith al-‘Amma) in Jeddah. As yet neither their relatives nor lawyers have been able to see them.

Amnesty International’s Media Director, Mike Blakemore said
“Torture, duress and deception are commonly used to extract confessions from people in interrogation rooms in Saudi Arabia. People are often denied access to lawyers and fair trials.

“This is a clear example of the serious breach of human rights and the UK Government has a responsibility to call the Saudi government to account for these failings.”

Another case that Amnesty International has drawn attention to is that of a 19-year-old woman who faces execution for the alleged murder of an infant in her care. Rizana Nafeek – a domestic worker from Sri Lanka who was arrested in May 2005 – was only 17 years old at the time of the alleged crime, which would make her a child offender.

Rizana was not given access to lawyers either during her interrogation or at her trial, and was believed to have confessed to the murder during police questioning. She has since retracted her confession.

Saudi Arabia has signed up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which clearly prohibits the execution of child offenders for any crime.

Mike Blakemore continued:
“The UK Government considers itself a standard-bearer for human rights. As such it must raise Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record with the Saudi King during this visit, just as we would hope they would raise such issues with other countries.”

Background information

Despite some limited recent reform initiatives, the human rights situation is still bleak. Last year, for example, scores of people suspected of belonging to or supporting armed groups were reported to have been arrested but the authorities did not divulge their identities or other information about them, and it was unclear whether any were charged and brought to trial. Peaceful critics of the government were subjected to prolonged detention without charge or trial. There were allegations of torture, and floggings continued to be imposed by the courts. Violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights was prevalent and migrant workers suffered discrimination and abuse. In 2006, 39 people were executed, and already 124 people have already been put to death in 2007.

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