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Stop Saudi Arabia’s oppressive anti-terror law

    Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 00:00

    “At a time when people throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been exercising their legitimate right to express dissent and call for change, Saudi Arabian authorities have been seeking to squash this right for its citizens “
    Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director

    A draft anti-terrorism law reviewed in June by Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council -- a government-appointed consultative body -- would offer a cloak of “legality” to long-standing oppressive measures taken by the government in the pretext of countering terrorism.

    The Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism would allow the authorities to prosecute peaceful dissent as a terrorist crime. Sentences are harsh and include the death penalty. Questioning the integrity of the King or the Crown Prince would result in at least 10 years imprisonment.

    The draft law allows for arbitrary detention, denying detainees the right to be promptly brought before a judge, and to be released or tried within a reasonable time. It gives a specialized court the power to detain without charge or trial for up to a year, and to extend such detention indefinitely. Detainees are not given a means to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in front of a court.

    The draft law also fails to include a clear prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. No judicial review or oversight is included in the law.

    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. Since March 2011 over 300 people 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. 

    Elsewhere in the country, 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”. The impact of this has gone beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia: the website of Amnesty’s International Secretariat in the UK was briefly blocked shortly after our criticism of the draft law became public on July 22, 2011.

    Amnesty International believes believe that King Abdullah, as head of state, is now the only authority who has the power to stop this assault on human rights.

    Take Action

    Make it personal: send your own letter to His Excellency Osamah Al Sanosi Ahmad, the ambassador for Saudi Arabia in Canada.

    Tell the ambassador that you are concerned that Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism is a serious threat to the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and other human rights. While governments have a responsibility to combat terrorism, any such measures must not be used as a vehicle to criminalize dissent or criticism of the state. Call for King Abdullah to amend the draft law to conform with international human rights law and standards.

    Write To

    His Excellency Osamah Al Sanosi Ahmad
    Ambassador & Consul General 
    Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia 
    201 Sussex Drive 
    Ottawa, ON K1N 1K6 
    Fax: + 613-237-0567 
    Salutation: Your Excellency