Sunday, 20 October, 2019

UN report on human rights situation in Saudi Arabia (Part 1)

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism on his visit to Saudi Arabia

Summary

In his former capacity as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson conducted an official visit to Saudi Arabia, from 30 April to 4 May 2017, to assess the progress that had been achieved by Saudi Arabia in its law, policies and practice in the fight against terrorism, measured against international human rights law and standards. The Special Rapporteur commends, in particular, the efforts of the Government to alleviate the suffering of the victims of terrorism through comprehensive programmes involving financial, psychological, educational and moral support, and career opportunities.

Despite some positive observations, in his report, the Special Rapporteur shares several key human rights concerns and recommendations with regard to existing abusive counter-terrorism and security-related legislation to stifle dissent, the overbroad definition of terrorism that often serves as a basis for prosecuting individuals engaged in non-violent expression and advocacy, especially in defence of human rights and journalists, as well as the pattern of systematic repression in the country’s Eastern Province, where the majority of the Shia population resides.

Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur expresses his concerns about the large number of reports regarding unfair trials before the Specialized Criminal Court, prolonged periods of detention, the use of torture, coerced confessions and the lack of accountability, as well as the failure of Saudi Arabia to provide minimum procedural safeguards during detention and interrogation, and its judicial practice of admitting coerced confessions into evidence, which, in his view, amounts to a systematic and flagrant denial of justice.

With regard to the use of the death penalty following manifestly unfair trials, the Special Rapporteur stresses that its imposition — particularly in the barbaric and public

way in which it is used in Saudi Arabia — is incompatible with the fundamental tenets of human rights law. He considers that the use of the death penalty by Saudi Arabia is archaic, and inhuman and degrading, not only for the person who is executed but for all those who contribute to it and who take part as spectators. It demeans and degrades the people of Saudi Arabia as a whole.

At the end of the report, the Special Rapporteur makes a number of recommendations to Saudi Arabia, including on its extraterritorial counter-terrorism engagements in Yemen and the Syrian Arab Republic.

I. Introduction

1. In his former capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson conducted an official visit to Saudi Arabia, from 30 April to 4 May 2017, at the invitation of the Government, to assess the progress that had been achieved by Saudi Arabia in its law, policies and practice in the fight against terrorism, measured against international human rights law and standards.

2. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Saudi Arabia for having extended an invitation to visit the country and he commends the transparency and the courteous, constructive and cooperative way in which the Government initiated and facilitated the visit, as well as his previous working-level visit in November 2016, both of which allowed a frank and open dialogue on most issues of concern. He also thanks the office of the United Nations country team in Saudi Arabia for providing valuable support throughout the visit.

3. The Special Rapporteur thanks the heads of all the governmental institutions that he met. He had the opportunity to hold exchanges of views about the Government’s efforts to combat terrorism with the Minister of Justice, the President of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, the General Director of the General Directorate of Investigation of the Ministry of the Interior, the President of the Specialized Criminal Court, the Chair of the National Society for Human Rights and the President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission.

4. The Special Rapporteur also had discussions with the Chief of the police station in Al Manar, and the Directors and personnel of Al Hair and Dhahban prisons and the Mohammed bin Naif Counselling and Care Centre. The Special Rapporteur’s team conducted interviews with individuals accused and convicted of terrorist crimes and met, although not privately, with representatives of families of victims of terrorist violence.

5. The Special Rapporteur shared his preliminary findings with the Government at the end of his visit, on 4 May 2017.

Follow this report in the next part…

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