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Monday, 10 August 2009

Saudi Arabia: Counterterrorism Efforts Violate Rights

Saudi Arabia has detained indefinitely more than 9,000 people under its counterterrorism program since 2003, offering many religious "reeducation" instead of judicial review to attain their freedom Human Rights Watch said in a report issued today.

Saudi Arabia only moved in October 2008 to try some detainees, announcing in July 2009 that it had convicted more than 300 on terrorism charges, in trials the report says were secret and unfair.

The 27-page report, "Human Rights and Saudi Arabia's Counterterrorism Response: Religious Counseling, Indefinite Detention, and Flawed Trials," documents Saudi Arabia's response to threats and acts of terrorism since 2003, including the indefinite detentions of thousands of people, some of them peaceful political dissidents. The domestic intelligence agency, the mabahith, which runs its own prisons, has prevented effective judicial oversight. Saudi Arabia should ensure the right to judicial review for anyone detained, and the right to a fair trial for anyone charged with a crime, the report says.

"Saudi Arabia's response to terrorism for years has been to lock up thousands of suspects and throw away the key," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities made believe that religious counseling could replace trials, and now they are pretending that convictions after secret trials can legitimize continued detention." More