World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Saudi Arabia: New terrorism law is latest tool

3 February 2014

Saudi Arabia: New terrorism law is latest tool to crush peaceful expression

A new counter-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia will entrench existing patterns of human rights violations and serve as a further tool to suppress peaceful political dissent, Amnesty International said after analysing the legislation.

The Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, which took effect on 1 February, uses an overly vague definition of terrorism, gives the Ministry of Interior broad new powers and legalizes a range of ongoing human rights violations against detainees.

“This disturbing new law confirms our worst fears – that the Saudi Arabian authorities are seeking legal cover to entrench their ability to crack down on peaceful dissent and silence human rights defenders,” said Said Boumedouha, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s fears about this law are not recent. In 2011, the organization detailed its concerns about a leaked draft of the legislation, which highlighted the negative human rights impact such a law would have.

In a series of subsequent communications with the organization, the Saudi Arabian authorities sought to allay fears the law would be used to clamp down on legitimate dissent by saying it was still only a draft.

“Passing a law with so many serious flaws two years after identical issues with the earlier draft were pointed out does not bode well for the authorities’ plans to end long-standing violations in the name of counter-terrorism. The changes made to the law since 2011 have done little to diminish the potentially devastating impact on human rights. The legislation just seems to codify the Ministry of Interior’s repressive tactics, which Amnesty International has documented for years,” said Said Boumedouha.

The definition of terrorist crimes used in the new law is overly vague and could be abused by the authorities to crack down on peaceful dissent. Among the offences labelled terrorism are any acts that directly or indirectly aim at “disturbing the public order of the state”, “destabilizing the security of society, or the stability of the state”, “endangering its national unity”, “revoking the basic law of governance or any of its articles”, or “harming the reputation of the state or its standing”.

Similar charges were used against almost all Saudi Arabian human rights defenders and civil society activists arrested and prosecuted in 2013. Amnesty International fears that such a broad definition allows the prosecution of any form of peaceful human rights activism as a terrorist crime punishable by law to long prison terms and even to death as the new law considers terrorism a most serious crime.

The new law also grants the Ministry of Interior wide powers with little or no judicial oversight. This includes the ability to order searches, seizures, arrests and detentions of suspects, with virtual impunity.

Article 6 of the law states that suspects can be held for 90 days with no contact with the outside world beyond a single phone call to their family. This includes not having access to a lawyer during interrogations.

The law also allows the Ministry of Interior to hold terror suspects without charge or trial for six months – renewable to a year – without the ability to appeal the decision. Indefinite detention in excess of a year is also allowed by the Specialized Criminal Court, which operates in secrecy.

“Legalizing prolonged incommunicado detention and blocking timely judicial challenges to detention is a recipe for systematic torture and other ill-treatment in custody,” said Said Boumedouha.

Background

The enactment of the Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, coming within months of Saudi Arabia’s Universal Periodic Review and its ascendancy to a seat on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, shows utter disregard for international human right law and the UN mechanisms put in place for its protection.

There has been a marked deterioration in Saudi Arabia’s human rights situation in recent months. During 2013 Amnesty International documented dozens of cases of activists sentenced by security and criminal courts to long prison terms and travel bans. The authorities forced the few independent human rights NGOs to shut down, with their members facing lengthy prison sentences, often after grossly unfair trials.

AI Index: PRE01/057/2014

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On Britain's Pleas For Mercy

So… Boris Johnson is promising that he won't be holding a snap general election, if he's chosen as the next UK Conservative Party leader. Reportedly, he is even making that promise a feature of his leadership campaign, since a vote for Boris would therefore mean (wink wink) that his colleagues wouldn't have to risk their jobs and face the wrath of the British public until 2020. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Aftermath Of Brexit

Be careful of what you ask for. Now that it has woken up from its Brexit victory hangover, is Britain acting as if it has just won the World Cup? Hardly. More>>

ALSO:

UK Labour Statement: The Shooting Of MP Jo Cox

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party said: “The whole of the Labour Party and Labour family - and indeed the whole country - will be in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox today. Jo had a lifelong record of public service and a deep commitment to humanity." More>>

ALSO:

Wellington.Scoop: Rainbow Colours On MFC In Sympathy For Florida Killings
Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre will be lit in colours of the rainbow Monday as a gesture of support for the LGBTI victims of the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On How Obama’s Supreme Court Choice Says Everything (Bad) About His Presidency

Nothing has epitomised the presidency of Barack Obama quite like his Supreme Court nominees. Time and again, Republican presidents will blithely nominate right wing ideological extremists (Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas) who only sometimes misfire and turn out to be liberals in disguise (David Souter). Yet Obama has consistently skipped over the judicially qualified liberals and gone for a succession of centrists... More>>

ALSO:

Turkey: UN Secretary-General On The Terrorist Bombing In Ankara

The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attack in Ankara earlier today. According to the latest reports, the explosion in the Kizilay district killed and wounded dozens of people. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news