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Saudi Arabia: Crackdown On Demonstrators A Blow

Saudi Arabia: Crackdown On Demonstrators Deals Blow

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

Saudi Arabia: Crackdown on demonstrators deals another blow to human rights

AI Index: MDE 23/010/2003 (Public) 24 October 2003

Amnesty International today called on the Saudi Arabian authorities to release people being detained for taking part in peaceful protest demonstrations.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all people held solely for the non-violent expression of their conscientiously held beliefs," said Amnesty International.

Saudi Arabian authorities arrested over 250 people during a protest demonstration held in al-U'laya district in Riyadh on 14 October 2003 which called for political reform and the release of political prisoners. Anti-government demonstrations are not allowed in Saudi Arabia.

The protest took place while a human rights conference organized by the Saudi Arabian Red Crescent was taking place in Riyadh. Contrary to what was announced by the Saudi Arabian authorities then, Amnesty International was not invited to attend the conference.

Um Sa'ud, one of three women arrested with the group and held in al-Malaz prison in Riyadh, was reportedly beaten and ill-treated during her arrest by security forces. She is said to have carried the picture of her son, Sa'ud al-Mutayri, who is believed to have died in al-Ha'ir prison during the fire which occurred in the prison on 15 September 2003. Um Sa'ud was apparently calling for the return of his body to the family. Amnesty International fears that Um Sa'ud and other detainees may be at risk of torture and ill-treatment in detention.

The Ministry of Interior announced that the total number of those arrested following the demonstrations on 14 October was 271. It added that 188 were released, but 83, including Um Sa'ud and two other women, are being interrogated and would be referred for trial.

Further protest demonstrations took place on 23 October 2003, in various cities including Jeddah, Dammam and Ha'il. Some of the protestors are said to have been injured during arrests. No violent activities are reported to have been carried out by the protestors.

Critics of the state are often at risk of indefinite detention without charge or trial. They are often ill-treated or tortured. Detainees do not have the right to formal representation by a lawyer and in many cases detainees and their families are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them.

Saudi authorities announced earlier this week that those who took part in the recent protests would be punished to prevent similar demonstrations in the future.

Due to the secrecy of the Saudi Arabian justice system, trials are often held behind closed doors. In the rare instances when individuals are charged and brought to trial, the proceedings invariably fail to meet the most elementary standards of fairness.

"The Saudi Arabian government must ensure that any detainee charged with a recognizably criminal offence is given a prompt and fair trial in accordance with international human rights standards," said Amnesty International. "Furthermore, detainees must be protected from torture and given regular access to families, lawyers and medical attention if necessary."

Amnesty International has repeatedly requested the Saudi Arabian authorities to visit the country. Up to this day, it has not received any positive reply.

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