First Published: 2013-10-21

Amnesty slams worsening Saudi rights record
Rights watchdog accuses Saudi Arabia of relying on its political, economic clout to deter international community from criticising its dire human rights record.
Middle East Online

Saudi authorities 'have ratcheted up the repression" since 2009

DUBAI - Amnesty International on Monday said Saudi Arabia had failure to act on UN recommendations and "ratcheted up the repression" since 2009, with the arbitrary detention and torture of activists.

The London-based watchdog's statement was released ahead of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday to discuss the oil-rich kingdom's record, and comes after Riyadh rejected a seat on the UN Security Council, citing the international body's "double standards" and inability to resolve regional conflicts.

"Saudi Arabia's previous promises to the UN have been proven to be nothing but hot air," said Amnesty's MENA director Philip Luther, accusing the kingdom of relying "on its political and economic clout to deter the international community from criticising its dire human rights record."

In its report titled "Saudi Arabia: Unfulfilled Promises," Amnesty criticised "an ongoing crackdown including arbitrary arrests and detention, unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment over the past four years" in the kingdom.

"Not only have the authorities failed to act, but they have ratcheted up the repression" since 2009, said Luther.

"For all the peaceful activists that have been arbitrary detained, tortured or imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since, the international community has a duty to hold the authorities to account," he said.

Amnesty renewed calls for Saudi authorities to release two prominent rights activists handed heavy jailed terms in March.

Mohammed al-Gahtani and Abdullah al-Hamed were sentenced to 11 and 10 years imprisonment respectively for violating a law on cybercrime by using Twitter to denounce various aspects of political and social life in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

They are co-founders of the independent Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).

"These men are prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally," said Luther.

"Their peaceful activism against human rights violations deserves praise not punishment. The only guilty party here is the government," he added.

Amnesty documented other rights violations it said are committed by Saudi authorities such as "systemic discrimination of women in both law and practise" and "abuse of migrant workers."

Women in the kingdom are not allowed to drive and need permission from their male guardians to travel.

It also accused the Sunni-ruled kingdom of "discrimination against minority groups," including Shiites concentrated in the Eastern Province who occasionally protest to demand more rights.

Amnesty also faulted the kingdom for "executions based on summary trials and 'confessions' extracted under torture."

The kingdom has executed 69 people so far this year.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the Gulf state's strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.


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