Date: 25 March 2011
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DETAINED AFTER PROTEST
Although Amnesty International is not aware of any legal text banning demonstrations, in practice the Saudi Arabian authorities
have generally not tolerated them taking place. Those who try to organize or participate in them are often arrested, held
incommunicado without charge and denied access to the courts to challenge the legality of their detention.
After a protest against the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip launched on 27 December 2008, a spokesperson for the
Ministry of Interior was reported as making an explicit announcement on 30 December 2008 that protests in the Saudi Arabia
were banned. Following the protests at the beginning of March 2011 in al-Qatif (see Protesters arrested in Saudi Arabia, 7 March
2011, UA 61/11, Index: MDE23/005/2011) and amid reports that further protests calling for reform in Saudi Arabia were
planned, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement on 5 March confirming the ban on demonstrations in the Kingdom. According
to the statement, security forces would take “all necessary measures” against those who attempt to disrupt order.
The following day, 6 March, the Council of Senior Ulema (religious scholars) also emphasized the prohibition of demonstrations
in the country. They forbade and warned against using demonstrations or other means that, according to them, stir discord and
division in society and stated that these were not the appropriate means for calling for reform or giving advice. On the same day,
the Shura Council (a consultative council appointed by the King) stressed the importance of preserving the security of the
Kingdom and ignoring misleading calls for the organization of demonstrations, sit-ins and marches, which, they argued, were
incompatible with the principles of Islamic law.
Critics of the Saudi Arabian government face gross human rights violations at the hands of security forces under the control of the
Ministry of Interior. They are often held incommunicado without charge, sometimes in solitary confinement, prevented from
consulting lawyers and denied access to the courts to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. Torture or other ill-treatment is
frequently used to extract confessions from detainees, to punish them for refusing to “repent”, or to force them to make
undertakings not to criticize the government. Incommunicado detention in Saudi Arabia often lasts until a confession is obtained,
which can take months and occasionally years.
Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
which prohibits the use of evidence extracted under torture or other ill-treatment. Article 15 states: “Each State Party shall
ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any
proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”
Thousands of people have been arrested arbitrarily in Saudi Arabia since 11 September 2001, including peaceful critics of the
state and human rights activists. For example, at least seven men were arrested in February 2007 in the cities of Jeddah and
Madinah after they circulated a petition calling for political reform and discussed a proposal to establish an independent human
rights organization in Saudi Arabia. Among those still detained include Dr Saud al-Hashimi, Al-Sharif Saif al-Ghalib, Dr Musa al-
Qirni, Dr ‘Abdel Rahman al-Shumayri, Fahd al-Qirshi, ‘Abdel Rahman Khan and Sulieman al-Rushudi. They had also challenged
the impunity enjoyed by Ministry of Interior officials who carry out arrests and detentions. The Ministry of Interior claimed in a
statement that they were arrested because they were collecting money to support terrorism; the detainees deny this. Relatives of
the seven men were among those protesting on 20 March 2011.
For more information, please see Amnesty International’s report Saudi Arabia: Assaulting human rights in the name of counter-
terrorism, issued on 22 July 2009 (http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/saudi-arabia-human-rights-abuses-name-
fighting-terrorism-20090722), and the update to the report Saudi Arabia: Countering terrorism with repression, issued on 11
September 2009 (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE23/025/2009/en).
UA: 91/11 Index: MDE 23/009/2011 Issue Date: 25 March 2011