Response to Saudi Arabia over draft anti-terrorism law

Amnesty International has responded to the Saudi Arabian authorities’ criticizm of the organization, after it published its concerns on July 22 that the kingdom’s draft anti-terrorism law would stifle peaceful dissent.Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UK, had written to Amnesty International, saying the organization’s concerns about the draft law were ill-founded and that it was wrong to suggest that the law could be used to suppress freedom of expression.He also said it was wrong for the organization to publish its concerns without first approaching the Saudi Arabian embassy.The organization is publishing the Ambassador’s letter dated 24 July 2011, at his request.Amnesty International has responded today by saying it stands by its assessment that the draft law is seriously flawed and could be used to penalize people who express peaceful views or opinions or engage in other legitimate activities.The organization also said  it wrote to the Ambassador on 21 July, the day before publication, and published when it did because it believed the matter was urgent and that the law was expected to be finalized imminently.It has highlighted numerous cases over many years where individuals have been detained by the authorities apparently for expressing anti-government views or legitimately exercising other human rights.On 22 July Amnesty International published a leaked copy of the draft law along with its assessment of the law.Three days later Amnesty International’s website was blocked in Saudi Arabia. The block has since been lifted.Amnesty International said that it wrote to the Ambassador the day before publishing its findings.Previous Amnesty International communications addressed to the Ambassador and other Saudi Arabian authorities have generally received no acknowledgement or response.Amnesty International said that it published the draft law and its concerns to encourage an open public debate among civil society organizations and others within the country and to ensure that when enacted the law complies fully with international human rights law and standards.The organization said it continues to be ready to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Saudi Arabian government.