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Saudi Arabia: Assaulting human rights in the name of counter-terrorism (AI report)

Amnistía Internacional publicou esta semana un informe sobre as violacións dos Direitos Humanos no sistema xudicial de Arabia Saudí. Destacan pola súa frecuencia e gravidade a pena de morte, a detención en réxime de incomunicación sen cargos nin xuízo e os “presos de conciencia” (detidos por “delictos” de opinión e similares). O informe leva por título “Saudi Arabia: Assaulting human rights in the name of counter-terrorism”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:

[…] Since the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, carried out by a group which included Saudi Arabian nationals, and in the wake of a series of attacks by armed groups and individuals inside Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian authorities have imposed a range of counter-terrorism measures that have worsened what was already a dire human rights situation. Combined with longstanding and severe repression of any perceived dissent and an extremely weak human rights institutional framework, these measures have swept aside embryonic legal reforms and left people in Saudi Arabia almost completely devoid of fundamental freedoms and protection of their human rights.

Old and new laws prescribe harsh and cruel punishments for terrorism-related offences, including beheading and flogging, yet they are so vaguely written that they can be, and are, used to punish and suppress expression and activities that are recognized and protected as legitimate the world over. The security forces fail to respect even these laws, however, routinely committing human rights violations in the knowledge that their actions are unlikely ever to be investigated let alone punished. In the rare instances when the laws are enforced in practice, this is done by a secretive, all male judiciary that lacks independence yet possesses very wide discretion to impose sentences of death or flogging.

Thousands of people have been detained in recent years on security grounds, including religious scholars and people suspected of belonging to or supporting Islamist groups such as al-Qa’ida or other groups, opposed to the Saudi Arabian government and its links with the USA and other Western countries, who are officially dubbed as “misguided.” Most were arrested in Saudi Arabia but others were forcibly returned, often secretly, from countries such as Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. Typically, they have then been detained in prisons for months or even years in conditions of virtual secrecy, held without charge or trial and without any means of challenging their detention or obtaining remedy. Most have been held in prolonged incommunicado detention for interrogation and have been denied access to lawyers, medical assistance and family visits for long periods. All have been held in places where torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners are rife. Some, it appears, have been tried secretly, and sentenced to prison terms but then have continued to be detained once their sentences have expired. Others, according to the government, are being held for “re-education”.

Caught up in the sweeping security-related repression are an unknown number of human rights defenders, peaceful advocates of political reform, members of religious minorities and many others who have committed no crime recognized as such by international law. Some of these are prisoners of conscience.

The minority of security detainees who have been charged and brought to trial have faced grossly unfair and secret proceedings. These have included brief sessions before a panel of three inquisitors who simply questioned the accused about confessions or other statements they made, or were alleged to have made, under interrogation while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention. Some of those convicted after such sessions have reportedly been sentenced to flogging in addition to prison terms.

In October 2008 the government announced that a special criminal court was being established to try detainees held in connection with terrorism and that the files relating to some 991 detainees had been completed and that they were to stand trial on capital charges, including murder and causing bomb explosions. The government provided no further information, however, until March 2009, when the Minister of the Interior disclosed that the trials had begun. He gave no further details, neither disclosing the names of any defendants nor whether they were being permitted access to or representation by defence lawyers.

Three months later, such information was still being withheld; the trials, if they were proceeding, remained shrouded in secrecy and it was unclear how many defendants had been convicted, what sentences had been imposed, and whether defendants have a right of appeal to a higher judicial tribunal, as required by international standards for fair trial. It was expected that the defendants would include eight men who were paraded on Saudi Arabian television in 2007 and shown “confessing” to planning terrorist attacks, undermining their right to fair trial, but at the time of writing this report, June 2009, this too had not been confirmed by the Saudi Arabian authorities. The secrecy surrounding the entire trials process raised the chilling prospect that hundreds of men may now or soon be facing execution after summary, unfair trials. […]

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24 Xullo 2009 - Posted by | Amnesty International, Death penalty, Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Politics, Saudi Arabia

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