Annual Report: Saudi Arabia 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Saudi Arabia 2011

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In June, the Deputy Minister of Interior told Okaz newspaper that a large number of detainees were being tried and that each would "get what he deserves", but gave no details. In September, press reports suggested that courts comprising three judges were being established to try defendants facing capital charges, while single-judge courts would try other defendants. The reports suggested that these courts were about to begin operation in Jeddah and then move to Riyadh. The first trial of 16 defendants opened in October in a prison in Jeddah; among the defendants were seven advocates of peaceful political reform who had been detained since February 2007. The trial was held in camera and the authorities did not disclose the precise charges; the defendants were not permitted access to lawyers.

  • Sulaiman al-Rashudi, a former judge in his seventies, was arrested on 2 February 2007 in Jeddah along with other advocates of reform and was among the 16 defendants brought to trial in October. In August 2009, human rights activists had petitioned the Board of Grievances, an administrative court, to order the Ministry of Interior to release him. The Ministry declared that the administrative court was not competent to hear the case because Sulaiman al-Rashudi had been charged and his case had been referred to the Special Criminal Court.

Freedom of religion

Scores of Muslims and Christians were arrested in connection with their religious beliefs or expression of those beliefs. Members of the Shi'a Muslim community were targeted for holding collective prayer meetings, celebrating Shi'a religious festivals and on suspicion of breaching restrictions on building Shi'a mosques and religious schools.

  • Turki Haydar Muhammad al-'Ali and five other people, mostly students, were arrested in January after posters of an al-Hussainiya (Shi'a religious centre) were displayed on the occasion of their holy day of 'Ashura in December 2009. They were detained without charge or trial at al-Ihsa prison and all were believed to be still held at the end of 2010.
  • Makhlaf Daham al-Shammari, a human rights activist and a Sunni Muslim, was arrested on 15 June after he published an article criticizing what he said was prejudice by Sunni religious scholars against members of the Shi'a community and their beliefs. He was still held at Dammam General Prison at the end of 2010; an appeal against his arbitrary detention submitted to the Board of Grievances had not been heard by the end of the year.
  • In October, 12 Filipinos and a Roman Catholic priest were arrested in Riyadh by religious police who raided a religious service being held in secret; they appeared to be accused of proselytizing. They were released on bail the following day.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities maintained a high degree of secrecy about detainees and their detention conditions and treatment, but reports emerged of at least two deaths in custody, possibly as a result of torture or other ill-treatment.

  • Dr Muhammad Amin al-Namrat, a Jordanian, died in January in the General Intelligence prison in 'Asir province. An Arabic teacher, he was reported to have been sentenced to two years in prison in 2007 for urging his students to take up arms against US forces in Iraq. He appeared to have been detained beyond the expiry of his sentence. No official investigation into his death was reported.
  • Mohammed Farhan died in September while detained at a police station in Jubail. A medical report was said to have referred to marks of strangulation on his neck. No investigation into his death was reported to have taken place by the end of the year.

A former detainee who had been held in Riyadh's 'Ulaysha prison as a security suspect in 2007 and 2008 told Amnesty International that he had been kept handcuffed and shackled for 27 days following his arrest before the handcuffs were removed and he was allowed to take a shower for the first time. He said that he had been interrogated during the night for more than a month and that this was routine for security suspects.

Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments

Corporal punishment, particularly flogging, was routinely imposed as a sentence by the courts and carried out as the main or as an additional punishment.