IN SAUDI ARABIA
International organizations such as Human Rights
Watch and Amnesty International have investigated
claims about the harsh justice system in Saudi Arabia.
They've interviewed scores of detainees, both nationals
and foreign workers. There are many serious concerns
and activists have written reports such as Saudi
Arabia: End Secrecy, End Suffering to shed light
on this highly secretive justice system.
Criminal cases in Saudi Arabia are heard
by the General Sharia (or Islamic court). The last
stage of judical review is by the Supreme Judical
Council. This 11-member body reviews judgements
handed down in major cases. In cases of captial
punishment the sentence needs to be approved by
the Royal court. These courts interpret the Shariah
or Islamic law. The Shariah is known as 'the word
of God' and is based upon the Koran.
of the laws are vaguely worded which means individuals
can be arrested and imprisoned on religious or political
grounds. Once arrested detainees are held incommunicado
and are denied any contact with family members or
of Frequent Torture
Prisoners have stated that they were forced to sign
false confessions. Methods of getting prisoners
to sign include electric shock, cigarette burns,
nail-pulling, beatings and threats to family members.
There are reports that some prisoners have died
as a result.
Secret Court Hearings
The prisoners frequently know nothing about their
cases, do not attend their trials and often aren't
even informed when they have been convicted. This
adds to unnecessary suffering because many have
no idea why or how long they will be in jail or
whether they face execution.
Court hearings are held in secret which means that
the families of the defendants as well as the general
public are denied the right to be present. The hearings
last between five minutes and two hours - even for
the most serious cases.
No guaranteed legal defense
Defendants have no right to a lawyer and have little
opportunity to mount a defense. Many are denied
the right to call witnesses and evidence that may
have been gathered during the investigation is hidden
from the defendant. The judge acts as the defendant's
lawyer and questions the prosecution.
Acccording to Amnesty International while some laws
in Saudi Arabia refer to detainees having lawyers,
it is rare.
Defendants can be convicted solely on the basis
of confessions which may have been extracted by
torture. Many people are suffering in Saudi prisons
because they were forced to sign these 'false' confessions.
Flogging and amputation of limbs are used extensively
as judicial punishments. They can be applied to
many offences ranging from alcohol and sexual offenses
to theft. Men, women and children are flogged in
prisons and in public squares around the country.
There is no upper limit on the number of lashes
judges can order. The most lashes ever recorded
was 4,000 given to an Egyptian national who was
convicted of robbery.
Death by Beheading
Saudi Arabia also has one of the highest rates of
executions in the world. This sentence can be applied
to a wide range of offenses including 'witchcraft'
and 'sexual crimes' both considered 'corruption
death sentence - by beheading - is often carried
out in public in what's know to locals as 'Chop-Chop'
Square in Riyadh. Saudi ambassador designate to
Britain claims that "We do not consider the
punishment of beheading as either abhorrent or against
human rights." The punishment for death is
beheading under the law of the Shariah.
Prisoners often receive no warning that they are
about to be executed. They are taken to a public
square, blindfolded and forced to kneel and are
beheaded. Most prisoners are not allowed to visit
with family before they are executed, in fact, most
families are notified only after the prisoner is