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Killing of civilians by group in Khober condemned

Saudi Arabia: Amnesty International condemns the killing of civilians by armed group in al-Khober

Amnesty International unreservedly condemns the killings and hostage taking carried out by an armed group on 29 and 30 May 2004 in the city of al-Khober in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Although the victims included people from different nationalities and faiths, the organization is disturbed by reported accounts of survivors that the gunmen had actively and deliberately sought to target non-Muslims.

According to press reports the gunmen targeted their attack on offices of oil companies and homes of employees, mainly expatriate workers from different nationalities. The deliberate and targeted killing of civilians on grounds of religion, race or nationality and killing of hostages are serious crimes under international law. Amnesty International calls for the perpetrators of these crimes to be brought to justice in accordance with international standards.

The cycle of political violence in Saudi Arabia has intensified significantly since the invasion of Iraq a year ago the government pursuit of the so called "war on terror" with disturbing disregard for the rule of law and international human rights standards. A number of bombings, including suicide bombings, as well as individually targeted killings of mainly civilian westerners, have been carried out by armed groups or individual gunmen. Government forces have been involved in house raids and street chases of suspected armed groups and individuals, often with fatal consequences.

Scores of civilians are reported to have been killed since May 2003, but the exact number and circumstances surrounding the killings are not known to Amnesty International due to government policy and practice of secrecy. The government has publicly blamed al-Qa'ida for the killings carried out by armed groups and individual gunmen. It said it has detained and interrogated thousands of al-Qa'ida members and sympathisers. In some cases it announced that it had detained members and sympathisers of al-Qa'ida connected with violent attacks which resulted in the killing of civilians.

The fate of such detainees remains shrouded in secrecy. No public trials have been held to bring them to justice, and no access to legal assistance is known to have been extended to them. Human rights organisations are not allowed access to the country to carry out independent investigation of human rights, and the government exercises strict control over media reporting of events.

The recent killings in al-Khober are part of this cycle of violence but are totally unjustifiable. They tear into the fabrics of common humanity enshrined in international and humanitarian principles. The respect of such principles and standards, which hold human beings equal in dignity and rights, is the duty of everyone, governments and armed groups. Amnesty International calls on armed groups in Saudi Arabia as well as the government to abide by these principles and standards.

Saudi Arabia in the Annual Report 2004: http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maacj3Faa7qDebb0hPub/

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