The last nine months has seen a new wave of repression in Saudi Arabia as authorities have cracked down on protesters and reformists on security grounds, according to Amnesty International. In a report, published on Wednesday 30 November, Saudi Arabia: Repression in the Name of Security, the organization says that hundreds of people have been arrested for demonstrating, while the government has drafted an anti-terror law that would effectively criminalize dissent as a "terrorist crime” and further strip away rights from those accused of such offences.
Thousands of people are in prison, many of them without charge or trial, on
terrorism-related grounds. Torture and other ill-treatment in detention
remains rife.In April 2011, an Interior Ministry spokesperson
said that around 5,000 people connected to the “deviant group”, meaning
al-Qa’ida, had been questioned and referred for trials.
Since February 2011, when sporadic
demonstrations began – in defiance of a permanent national ban on
protests – the government had carried out a crackdown in the Eastern
Province. Since March 2011 over 300 people, mostly Shi'a Muslims, who took part in peaceful
protests in al-Qatif, al-Ahsa and Awwamiya have been detained, either at
demonstrations or shortly afterwards. Most have been released, often
after pledging not to protest again. Many face travel bans.
in Saudi-Arabia protests have been stifled by warnings by the Interior
Ministry that the authorities would “take all necessary measures”
against those who tried to “disrupt order”.
Individuals who did demonstrate were swiftly arrested. Among them was
40-year-old Khaled al-Johani, the only man to demonstrate on the 11
March “Day of Rage” in Riyadh, who told journalists he was frustrated by
media censorship in Saudi Arabia.Charged
with supporting a protest and communicating with foreign media, he is
believed to have been held in solitary confinement for two months. Nine
months on he remains in detention and has not been tried.
A number of people who have spoken up in support of protests or reform
have been arrested. Sheikh Tawfiq Jaber Ibrahim al-Amer, a Shi'a cleric,
was arrested for the second time this year in August for calling for
reform at a mosque. He has been charged with “inciting public opinion”.
On 22 November 16 men, including nine prominent reformists,
were given sentences by the Specialized Criminal Court ranging from five
to 30 years in prison, on charges that included forming a secret
organization, attempting to seize power, incitement against the King,
financing terrorism, and money laundering. Amnesty
International said that their trial, which began in May 2011, was
grossly unfair. The defendants were blindfolded and handcuffed during
the trial while their lawyer was not allowed to enter the court for the
first three sessions.
In July 2011 Amnesty International published a leaked copy of a secret draft anti-terror law,
which would allow the Saudi Arabian authorities to prosecute peaceful
dissent as a terrorist crime and permit extended detention without
charge or trial.
If the law was to be passed without being
amended, terrorist crimes would include “endangering… national unity”
and “harming the reputation of the state or its position”. Questioning
the integrity of the King would carry a minimum prison sentence of 10
After Amnesty International published the draft law, the
Saudi Arabian authorities appeared to briefly block access to the
organization’s website from within the Kingdom and said that its
concerns about the law were “baseless, mere supposition and without
Human Rights Watch also denounced the arrests in the Eastern Province (here)
It also severely criticized the rather medieval juridical system in the Kingdom (here)