Freedom in Shackles

Freedom in Shackles

Al - Adala Center for Human Rights
May 2012


- Introduction
- Freedom to establish societies
- Freedom of peaceful assembly
- The dead and wounded during protests
- Torture
- Human rights defenders
- Travel ban
- Freedom of opinion and expression
- The Lack of justice
- Religious freedoms and holding to account hatred inciters
- Preventing social and cultural activities
- Recommendations


As part of its extensive efforts to document the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in an objective and professional manner despite all difficulties and challenges, the Adala Centre for Human Rights is releasing this comprehensive report for March and April 2012. The report also refers to other cases from recent months that reflect that human rights violations taking place systematically in the country.

Because Adala Centre wishes to provide a clear and professional report, it highlighted all the legislation and commitments which the Saudi government agreed to adhere to. The report also shows breaches committed by individuals and official bodies, and their lack of adherence to the Kingdom's obligations towards respecting international, regional and local human rights agreements.

The report aims not only to document and follow up on human rights violations, but also to relate the daily breaches committed by executive and judicial government bodies to local and international laws and regulations. Our goal is to render this report a reference material for human rights observers in general.

It also aims to provide an objective material for everyone in human rights fields through the presentation of examples of violations and solutions for them; in order to raise awareness of human rights and provide ways of confronting them.

The information provided in this report are the result of extensive efforts of following up, documenting and monitoring the human rights situation with all parties concerned. It is also the result of collective voluntary efforts by several activists in this field as well as the help of the victims of violations and their families who provided the basic information for this report.

Adala Centre hopes that this report will provide guidelines for those working in official institutions for dealing with citizens and residents in the country. It also hopes to tackle the breaches especially with regards to summoning, investigation, detention and trial procedures.

The report praises some government procedures, however, it draws attention to the importance of taking legislative and legal measures towards violations of freedom of expression and all forms of discrimination and sectarian incitement against any group.

Freedom of Associations

Saudi authorities still refuse to grant permits to civil society organizations working in human rights in a clear violation of its legal commitments, especially the Arab Charter for Human Rights which states in Article «24» section «6» that every person has the right to "freedom of peaceful assembly and associations. "[1]  It also contradicts its agreements as a member of the Human Rights Council for 2006 - 2012 such as the Council's decision on 6 October 2010, which affirms the right for freedom of assembly and the establishment of associations. This also contradicts its agreement on recommendation «34» stated in the Universal Periodic Review on 6 February 2009 during which Saudi Arabia guaranteed the rights of both civil society representatives and human rights defenders to establish organizations and practice their right of freedom of expression.

Adala Centre for human rights is continuing its extensive efforts with officials in order to obtain a permit for its operation. The Ministry of Social Affairs rejected its application with the excuse that "the objectives of the Centre do not coincide with the bylaw of the charitable institutions and organizations, and hence the Ministry cannot grant the Centre a license, " as was stated in the letter of the General Directorate of Social Affairs in the Eastern Province No. 3/527 dated 19 December 2011.

Based on Article 3 of the Rules of Pleadings and Proceedings before the Board of Grievances issued with the Council of Ministers decision No. «190» on 16 Thil - Qi'da 1409 / 20 June 1989, a complaint was filed against the decision on 1 January 2012. On 7 February 2012, the Ministry of Social Affairs also rejected this complaint.

On Sunday 21 April 2012, the Adala Centre filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Social Affairs in the Administrative Court requesting the annulment of the decision.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Saudi authorities continue their security campaign by arresting individuals accused of participating in demonstrations which took place in the Eastern Province or writing on social networks. From March 2011 until April 2012, 560 individuals were arrested of which 124 remain behind bars, some even without charges or trial. This violates article 114 of the Law of Criminal Procedures which states "the detention shall end with the passage of five days, unless the Investigator sees fit to extend the detention period. In that case, he shall, prior to the expiry of that period, refer the file to the Chairman of the branch of Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution in the relevant province so that he may issue an order for extending the period of the detention for a period or successive periods provided that they do not exceed in their aggregate forty days from the date of arrest, or otherwise release the accused. In cases that require detention for a longer period, the matter shall be referred to the Director of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution to issue an order that the arrest be extended for a period or successive periods none of which shall exceed thirty days and their aggregate shall not exceed six months from the date of arrest of the accused. Thereafter, the accused shall be directly transferred to the competent court, or be released. "[2] 

Among the most prominent detainees in the Eastern Province are Shaykh Tawfeeq al - Amar[3] , writer Natheer al - Majid[4] , human rights activists Fadhel al - Manasif, Fadhel al - Sulaiman[5] , journalists Jalal Mohammed Al - Jamal, Habeeb Ali Al Ma'ateeq and Hussain Malik Al Salim[6] . There are also at least six detainees in Riyadh[7]  arrested since March on similar charges including Sheikh Yusif Al Ahmad[8] , human rights activists Mohammed Al Bejadi, Khaled Al - Jahni[9]  and Muhammad al - Wadani[10] .

Among those who were arrested on similar charges are 35 children, 11 of which are still in prison which represents a clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which Saudi joined on 26 January 1996. According to Article 13 of this Convention, "the child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice. " Article 15 also states that "States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly. "

Due to these arrests, at least 33 individuals were dismissed from work as some private companies implemented section «7» Article 80 of the Saudi Labour law which states that "An employer may not terminate the contract without an award, advance notice or indemnity except in the following cases, and provided that he gives the worker a chance to state his reasons for objecting to the termination:

If the worker is absent without valid reason for more than twenty days in one year or for more than ten consecutive days, provided that the dismissal be preceded by a written warning from the employer to the worker if the latter is absent for ten days in the first case and for five days in the second[11] .

At least 41 detainees are still in Dammam Intelligence Prison and their families are not allowed to visit them despite the fact that some of them have been in prison for months. For example, human rights activist Fadhel Al Manasif was detained seven months ago and was not allowed family visits in clear violation of Article 119 of the Law of Criminal Procedures which states that sixty days is the maximum period, if necessary, for the investigation[12] .

Adala Centre believes that the detention of peaceful protestors conflicts with the Saudi government's human rights commitments. Saudi Arabia voluntarily committed itself to implement the recommendations stated in the Universal Periodic Review in 2009. This includes recommendation No. 5, which states that "the Kingdom is making its utmost endeavor to fulfill all its international obligations in the field of human rights by, inter alia, taking all the measures needed to protect rights in regard to freedom of opinion and expression. "[13]  Moreover, Saudi Arabia joined the Arab Charter on Human Rights on 14 September 2009, which highlights in Article «24» section «6» that every citizen has the right of freedom of peaceful assembly. This Article should be implemented even if it contradicts local legislations especially as Saudi Arabia has joined the Vienna Convention on 14 April 2003, which highlights in Article «27» that "a party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty. This rule is without prejudice to article 46. " Article «81» of the Basic System also states that "the implementation of this law shall not violate the treaties and agreements the Kingdom has signed with other countries or with international organizations and institutions. "

The dead and wounded

During the protests that took place in Qatif since February 2011, riot police opened fire at protestors. This resulted in the killing of 7 people[14]  who were injured in vital areas such as the head, chest and stomach[15] . This also resulted in the injury of 36 individuals including some serious cases.


Adalah Centre documented several allegations of torture which took place in Dammam Intelligence Prison which include hitting, kicking, using electric shocks on sensitive areas, using fire extinguishers for hitting prisoners and making them stand for long periods with their hands held high. These allegations were also confirmed in the National Society for Human Rights' report on 4 April 2012 regarding intelligence prisons in Saudi Arabia. The report claims that "some of detainees were subjected to ill treatment during interrogations in order to forcefully extract confessions. "[16]  These allegations were also confirmed by the obvious torture marks on the bodies of released prisoners who said that surveillance cameras inside interrogations rooms were directed to the wall or to the ground.

Adala Centre expresses its deep concern regarding these allegations which contradict Islamic teachings as well as the law. The Centre informed the Ministry of Interior of the allegations, based on the Law of Criminal Procedures which was issued by a Royal Decree NO. «M/ 39» on 28/7/1422 AH, which states in Article «2» that "an arrested person shall not be subjected to any bodily or moral harm. Similarly, he shall not be subjected to any torture or degrading treatment. " Article 8 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights also states that "no one shall be subjected to physical or mental torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" and that "State Parties shall protect every person in their territory from being subjected to such practices and take effective measures to prevent such acts. The practice thereof or participation therein, shall be regarded as a punishable offense. " Saudi Arabia is a State member of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it joined on 23 September 1997; hence, it is obliged to adhere to it. According to Article «2» of the Convention: 1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. 2. There are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever. A state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency cannot be invoked as a justification for torture. 3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority cannot be used as a justification for torture. This Article obliges the State to urgently establish a committee that holds those responsible for torture accountable. This is in compliance with Article 4 of the Convention Against Torture which states that "each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture. "

Human rights defenders

Engaging in human rights activities in Saudi Arabia is a dangerous endeavor and human rights defenders are always subjected to arbitrary arrest, harassment and travel bans. The following are three examples:

Fadhel Makki Abbas Al Manasif, 26

A blogger and cameraman and a founding member of Adala Centre, was arrested three times. On Sunday 5 April 2011, Al Manasif was arrested and detained in Dammam prison for three months without charges or trial. On Sunday 1 May 2011, he was summoned for questioning by the police in Al Awamiya with regards to his human rights activities. On 4 June 2011, he was moved from Dammam Intelligence prison to Jeddah Intelligence Prison and on 6 June 2011 was presented to the Specialized Criminal Court. The accusations leveled at him related to his first arrest in 2009 and includes inciting schism and chaos, inciting the public against the State, vandalising public properties, participating in several demonstrations, illegal assemblies and protests, rioting and resisting police and not complying with the authorities. The fact the accusations are two years old and also lack evidence proves that Al Manasif has been deliberately targeted. On 11 August 2011, Al Manasif was released after pledging that he would not participate in future demonstrations.

However, on 2 October 2011, Saudi authorities arrested Al Manasif once again at a checkpoint between Al Awamiya and Safwa in the Eastern Province in order to impede his work in following up one of the human rights violations committed by security forces[17] .

On 28 February 2012, Al Manasif was presented before the Specialized Criminal Court and was allowed to appoint a lawyer. He was also presented before the same court on 9 April 2012 and denied all accusations. The hearing was then adjourned to 9 May 2012.

During his second arrest on 1st May 2011 which lasted 103 days, Al Manasif was subjected to solitary confinement and denied family visits. During his third arrest on 2 October 2011, which is still continuing, Al Manasif was subjected to solitary confinement for three months and denied family visits. There are also claims that Al Manasif was tortured during his first and second arrests, and that electrocution was used in order to extract confessions under torture.

Muhammed Salih Al Bijadi, 35

A writer and a founding member of the Political and Civil Rights Society, was banned from traveling since August 2008 and arrested three times due to his human rights activities. He was arrested first between 4 September 2007 and 1 January 2008. The second arrest was between 9 and 11 January 2008. The third arrest occurred on 20 March 2011 after his participation in a protest of 400 people, including the families of political prisoners outside the Saudi Interior Ministry in Riyadh on 19 March 2011.

Bijadi was arrested at his office in the city of Buraida, his office was searched before taking him to his house and confiscating his laptop, books and personal papers. The arrest and search took place without a search warrant. Bijadi was then moved to al - Ha'ir intelligence prison in Riyadh.

Bijadi was tried before the Specialized Criminal Court and accused of being involved in establishing a human rights society, distorting the image of the state in the media, criticizing the judiciary, encouraging the families of political prisoners to protest and possessing censored books[18] .

During Bijadi's trial, he was prevented from appointing a lawyer, however Bijadi insisted on demanding his legal right. On 10 April 2012, he was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and banned from traveling for 5 years.

Bijadi was subjected to four months of solitary confinement which made him go on a food strike on 8 March 2011 until he was forcibly fed on 11 March 2011, according to sources of the Political and Civil Rights Society.

Mukhlif bin Khulaif bin Dahham AlShammari, 59

A writer and a founding member of several social foundations. He was arrested in February 4th, 2007, for one hundred and ten days on the charges of violating the state's security. Then, he was discharged with SR159, 000 «about $42, 411» as a financial compensation after being found innocent by the Administrative Court.

He was arrested again by the Saudi authorities in 14 June 2010, and was temporarily released in 8 March 2012. AlShammari is accused of trying to distort the reputation of Saudi Arabia in front of the public opinion in foreign states, joining suspicious organizations, producing and sending what could negatively affect the public order and religious values through the Internet, provoking seditions and inciting the public opinion against various governmental institutions as well as questioning the integrity of officials in different public sectors with no evidence. He is, also, accused of questioning the orientations of Saudi religious leaders and depicting them as hatred and division inciters on satellite channels as well as utilizing his writings for achieving personal objectives and using them as a means for putting pressure on the state's rulers.

AlShammari's case is now pending in in the Specialized Criminal Court. He was called in 17 April 2012, to attend a trial session but he was told that the session was postponed and no other date was set.

Travel Ban

Since March 2011, the Ministry of Interior banned from traveling for an indefinite period most released prisoners linked to demonstrations in the Eastern Province. In addition, many prominent figures were also banned from traveling such as Dr. Salman Al Awda, political activists Muhammad Said Tayeb, Dr. Walid Al Majid, Dr. Matrook Al Falih, Dr. abdulkareem Al Khodr[19] , Dr. Abdualla Al Hamid and poet Ali Al Dumaini. On 21 March 2012, the Ministry of Interior banned from traveling the supervisor of the Human Rights Monitor in Saudi, the human rights activist lawyer Waleed Sami Abul - Khair[20] . On 25 March 2012, a founding member of the Political and Civil Rights Society, Dr. Mohammad Fahad Al Qahtani[21]  was also banned from travel.

Adala Centre believes that these measures taken against political and human rights activists are arbitrary and cannot be annulled by the Administrative Court as they were issued by the Minister of Interior[22] . This was justified by describing the decision as relating to the sovereignty of the country and hence is outside the jurisdiction of the Administrative Court[23] .

The right to travel is one of the civil rights affirmed in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination which Saudi Arabia joined on 23 September 1997. The Convention affirms the right of freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State which should be protected and implemented without racial discrimination. This is evident in the general comment[24]  no «20» on Article «5» of the Convention which affirms "The right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country. "

Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Adala Centre would like to express its deep concern regarding the government's restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion. On 18 Thil - Qida 1432, a Royal Decree was issued stating that "an employee who publicly criticizes the policies or programs of the State through participation in publishing, issuing, signing statements or letters will be dismissed, because this affects objectivity and loyalty of public service. "[25]  This affects 809, 132 employee working in the public sector according to statistic reports which were issued by the Department of Statistics for the financial year 1430 - 31 «2009 - 2010» [26] .

There are also mounting concerns with regards to what was published in Al - Riyadh newspaper[27] , issue no «16006» on 20 April 2012, regarding the issuing of a Royal Decree which prevents judges in Saudi Arabia from participating in the media with the excuse of guaranteeing the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary. This decree is going to affect 5082 thousands judges[28] .

On 27 April 2012, the Saudi Cultural Bureau in Canada sent a letter to the all Saudi students there advising them not to give any statements to foreign media[29] . It is expected that all Saudi students on scholarships «whose number is estimated to be 143, 000 students studying in more than 26 countries» will receive similar letters[30] .

Denial of Justice

A fair trial requires legal guarantees and allowing the accused to have a legal representative during investigation. No fair trial can be achieved with the existence of torture, ill treatment in order to extract confessions as well as disrespecting the private life of the accused, his family and correspondence.

The Centre has noted that individuals have been tried in the Specialized Criminal Courts despite the fact they were detained before the establishment of this Court. This violates Article 13 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights which affirms that no individual shall be tried in a court that was established after his/her detention. It also states that "everybody has the right to a fair trial in which sufficient guarantees are ensured, conducted by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law in judging the grounds of criminal charges brought against him or in determining his rights and obligations. "

The Centre has observed clear violations in the procedures of summoning and arresting. As well as with regards to searching houses, cars and individuals and extending detention periods without legal permits. In addition to this, private information has also been requested during arrests such as the passwords for e - mails and Facebook accounts. This violates the detainees' right of privacy as well as the Criminal Law of Procedures which gives the Director of Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution the right in Article «56» to "issue an order authorizing seizure of mail, publications, and parcels and surveillance and recording of telephone conversations, if such procedure is deemed useful in determining the truth related to a crime that has actually been committed. Such order shall state the reasons thereof and shall be for a period not exceeding ten days renewable according to the requirements of the investigation. " In addition to this, Article «21» of the Arab Charter on Human rights also states that "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence or to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation. " Currently, security forces at checkpoints stop people and check their mobiles and accounts in violation of the aforementioned articles.

According to Article «4» of the Saudi Law of Criminal Procedures "any accused person shall have the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a representative to defend him during the investigation and trial stages. " Article «69» also states that "the accused, the victim, the claimant in respect of the private right of action, and their respective representatives or attorneys may attend all the investigation proceedings. " However, this has not been implemented at all in the General Intelligence Prison.

This is also a clear violation of Article «84» of the Law of Criminal Procedures which states that "the investigator may not seize any piece of paper or document that has been delivered by the accused to his representative or attorney in connection with the performance of the service entrusted to him, nor the correspondence exchanged between them in the case. " Despite this, officials in the General Intelligence Prison photocopy all the correspondence between lawyers and the accused during their meetings.

According to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisons No «93» "for the purposes of his defense, an untried prisoner shall be allowed to apply for free legal aid where such aid is available, and to receive visits from his legal adviser with a view to his defense and to prepare and hand to him confidential instructions. For these purposes, he shall if he so desires be supplied with writing material. Interviews between the prisoner and his legal adviser may be within sight but not within the hearing of a police or institution official. " This standard was also stressed by Principle 18 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly resolution of the UN 43/173 of 9 December 1988. However, the rooms allocated for the prisoners and their lawyers are 5x2 m2 and a security guard is always present which makes it difficult for them to talk in private.

This represents a clear violation of the previous standard and also of Article «16» section «3» of the Arab Charter on Human Rights which states that the accused shall be 'tried in his presence in front of a judge, and to defend himself or through legal assistance of his own choosing or with the assistance of his lawyer, with whom he can freely and confidentially communicate. " The Specialized Criminal Court did not allow Mohammed Salih Al Bijadi the freedom to choose his legal representative. Bijadi's trial was also conducted privately which violates Article «155» of Law of Criminal Procedures clearly states that all trials should be public. However, the Criminal Court violates this with the exception of the following groups who were mentioned in the Directive of the Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs no 7664 - 2 - 24 on 31/1/1433 AH. It also states that "all Ministry of Justice trial procedures with regards to the trial of detainees states that a lawyer or representative, human rights authority and media should be present. "

Adala Centre praises the step that was taken by the Ministry of Justice with regards to paying the cost of legal representatives for any detainee in the Specialized Criminal Court. The Centre calls for this step to be expanded and to include all courts in adherence to Article «13» of the Arab Charter which states that "each State party shall guarantee to those without the requisite financial resources legal aid to enable them to defend their rights. " Also, Article 16 section «3» states that the accused has "the right to be tried in his presence before an ordinary court and to defend himself in person or through a lawyer of his own choosing with whom he can communicate freely and confidentially. "

The Saudi Minister of Justice and the President of the Supreme Council of Court Dr Mohammed Al - Eisa stated to al - Jazira newspaper, issue no 14446 on 17 April 2012, that the Ministry of Justice respects the humanity and rights of prisoners, allocated lifts for them and WCs on all floors. He also added that when the prisoners stand before the judge all chains are removed and that the location of the trial is suitable[31] . This is not accurate because all prisoners are brought into the court hall with chains on their feet. In the Specialized Criminal Court the accused are brought from the prison to the court hearing blindfolded, with their hands and feet chained. And when they leave the court room they are chained and blindfolded once again which contradicts Article 185 of the Law of Criminal Procedures which clearly states that the "accused shall attend court hearings without chains. " In addition to this, there is also a shortage of toilette facilities in the Specialized Court.

The Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution has also refused to fulfill its duties towards prisoners of intelligence prisons who have been in prison for more than six months and have not been referred to court as stated in Article 114 of the Law of Criminal Procedures.

The Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution claims that the prisoners of the intelligence prisoners are outside its jurisdiction in spite of the Directive of his Royal Highness the Crown Prince, the President of the Ministerial Council and the Minister of Interior Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, no 49361 on 2/8/ 1423 AH which states that the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution should supervise and inspect prisons and detention centers affiliated to the General Directorate of Investigation. This also contradicts Articles «39. 38. 37» and section «H» of Article «3» of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution's system which guarantee the rights of detainees and protect them. The Directive also stresses that the Bureau should inspect the prisons and implement the Directive of the Crown Prince and Article «37» of the Law of Criminal Procedures which states that "members of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution shall, at any time and without regard to official hours, visit the prisons and other places of detention falling within their jurisdictional areas to ensure that no person is unlawfully imprisoned or detained. They shall have access to the relevant files of the prisons and detention centers and communicate with prisoners and detainees, and receive whatever they submit in connection therewith. The officers of prisons and detention centers shall provide the members of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution with any assistance they may need for the discharge of their duties. "

Executive bodies must also adhere to Article «20» of the Arab Charter which states that "accused persons shall be separated from convicted persons and shall be subject to treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons. "

Religious freedoms and accountability for inciting hatred

On 3 April 2012, Saudi authorities demolished a mosque belonging to the Ismaili sect in the Thoqba neighborhood of Khobar city in the Eastern Province. Although, the mosque was built four decades ago, the authorities have now claimed that it lacks a building license.

The demolition of the mosque is unjustifiable because Saudi authorities refuse to give permission for building any mosque for Twelver Shia or Ismailis outside Hasa, Qatif and Najran. This is with the exception of one case in which the authorities gave permission to build a Shia mosque in Dammam. However, Shias are not allowed to practice their rituals outside these areas, which forces them to buy or rent places which are then used as places of worship. This clearly contradicts the Saudi government's claims that it respects the religious freedom of Shias.

In a letter sent on 18 September 1992 addressed to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the following was transmitted by the Special Rapporteur:

According to the information received, members of the Shia Muslim community in Saudi Arabia are reportedly deprived of the right to express their religious beliefs in public and are subjected to frequent attacks by religious speakers and writers who are said to call for their boycott and isolation.

On 2 October 1992, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Office at Geneva transmitted the following information to the Special Rapporteur with regard to the above - mentioned allegation:

our view is that freedom of religion «which is a basic issue in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights» depends on two elements: a» The freedom of any country to adhere to, protect and preserve its religion; b» The respect and tolerance towards religious minorities of the country's citizens as long as they respect the constitutional tenets of their country. Isn't your office well aware that 100 percent of all the citizens of Saudi Arabia are adherents of the Muslim religion, including the Shiites? The "allegations" of their mistreatment in Saudi Arabia can only emanate from political motives to disturb law and order in the country, and thus violates its freedom of religion. Our Constitution is based on the Holy Koran which all Muslims, including the Shiites, believe to be the Divine Law governing the life of the adherent. Our government, as any other responsible government, refuses to engage in any sort of polemics emanating from any source questioning our religious freedom and using alleged allegations to justify such an intervention[32] .

Adala Centre praises the King's decision to suspend the broadcast of Awtan TV channel for a month and his request for investigation to be conducted against those responsible for insulting the Ismaili sect living in Najran in Saudi Arabia. This decision coincides with Article «12» of the Basic Law which states that "the consolidation of national unity is a duty, and the State will prevent anything that may lead to disunity, sedition and separation. " Also, Article «39» states that "information, publication, and all other media shall employ courteous language and adhere to State's regulations, and they shall contribute to the education of the nation and the bolstering of its unity. All acts that foster sedition or division or harm the State's security and its public relations or detract from man's dignity and rights shall be prohibited. The statutes shall define all that". This step should be put in practice on the ground by holding to account all those found to be responsible for inciting hatred and religious or racial discrimination; in addition to passing a law that criminalizes the incitement of hatred[33] .

Preventing cultural and social activities

The government prohibits organizing cultural, scientific and social conferences which violates the most basic human rights principle that is the right to obtain knowledge. During recent months Saudi authorities cancelled several activities, including:

On 26 April 2012, the authorities cancelled Dr Tawfeeq Al - Saif's lecture which was organized by Najran Cultural Forum, entitled "Our Society in a Changing Reality: How We Connect our Present with Our Past. " The lecture was cancelled three and a half hours before its scheduled time by the order of the governor of Najran Prince Misha'al bin Abdualla. He also ordered that all advertisement posters for the lecture be removed from the streets leading to the hotel.

On 22 February 2012, a lecture by Dr Tariq Al Sowaydan which was scheduled to take place at King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals during an exhibition on volunteering opportunities[34]  was also cancelled. The lecture was entitled "Voluntary Work is a Civilized Change. "

On 12 April 2012, a conference on academic specialities was also cancelled. The conference was expected to take place at King Abdulaziz Cultural Centre in Jeddah. In spite of obtaining all necessary permits, the Saudi authorities informed the Centre on 11 April 2012, that the conference is banned with the excuse that "similar programs are taking place in other universities, " according to a clarifying statement[35]  made by the organizers of the conference which was issued on 17 April 2012.

TEDxNajad conference was postponed two hours before it started. The Conference was expected to take place on Thursday 5 April 2012, at King Fahad Cultural Centre in Riyadh.

A blood donation campaign[36]  in Qatif was cancelled just hours before it started with orders from the Emirate of the Eastern Region. The campaign was organized to take place on 8 - 9 - 10 February 2011, in spite of obtaining permission from relevant authorities.

The American Universities Exhibition[37]  was cancelled two days before its time despite having necessary permits by the Emirate of the Eastern Province. The exhibition was expected to be held at King Abduallah Ceremony Hall in Qatif on 8 - 9 October 2011.

The above examples reflect the arbitrary practices towards civil activities organized mostly by the youth. This does not coincide with the future vision for the youth stated in the Ninth Development Plan for 2010 - 2014 in Chapter «18» which is entitled Youth and Development. This plan was approved by the Saudi Ministerial Council and states that "creating a generation of youth with physical, intellectual and life skills who are also responsible towards themselves, their families, society, country and also contribute in the development process. "[38]  Preventing cultural activities also contradicts the recommendation ratified by the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization on 30 November 1976 with regards to public participation and contribution in cultural life[39] .


To swiftly ratify the civil society institutions' bill which was approved by the Shoura Council on 31 December 2007, and allow human rights organizations and activists to work freely without any harassment.

To join the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the government committed itself to join before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2003.

To implement regional and international human rights agreements which Saudi Arabia has joined. This requires the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice to take effective procedures to implement these agreements. Also, both the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice should adhere to local legislations including the Law of Criminal procedures.

To release all prisoners including human rights activists and prisoners of conscience who demanded reform. Also, to provide fair and public trials for prisoners on criminal charges and compensating prisoners for material and emotional damages. Moreover, to reinstate workers as soon as possible and establish an effective legal mechanism which allows the detainees to apply for lack of legal basis for their arrest.

An immediate independent and impartial investigation is required in order to quickly investigate the killing and shooting cases that took place in the Eastern Province. In addition to bringing those responsible of these crimes to account especially those in higher positions by applying procedures that comply with international standards of transparency. The victims should also be compensated in accordance to international standards.

General Investigations members should be stopped from breaching local, regional and international laws. Their job should be limited to arresting suspects and collecting evidence. Moreover, a new committee should be formed in order to investigate the increasing number of torture allegations and bringing those responsible to justice.

To promote a human rights culture among both civil servants and private sectors employees; and put forward an educational plan for employees of the Ministry of Interior to enable them to know laws relating to their work and especially human rights regulations.

To remove all restrictions on cultural activities and civil servants which prevent their participation in public affairs such as signing petitions in the fear of arbitrary dismissal.

To cancel all travel bans especially with regards to prisoners of conscience and human rights activists.

To emphasize the principle of equality and rule of law between citizens and eliminate all forms of sectarianism or racism by legislating laws which criminalize them.

[1]  On 27/9/2011, the Human Rights Council approved Saudi as one of its members and stated: ‘Recognizing that exercising the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association free of restrictions, subject only to the limitations permitted by international law, in particular international human rights law, is indispensable to the full enjoyment of these rights, particularly where individuals may espouse minority or dissenting religious or political beliefs’.

[2]  On 6 /10/2011, the Human Rights Council approved Saudi’s decision ‘to respect and promote the right of anyone deprived of his or her liberty by arrest or detention to bring proceedings before court, in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his or her detention and order his or her release if the detention is not lawful, in accordance with their international obligations’.

Saudi also agreed ‘to ensure that the right referred to in subparagraph (d) above is equally respected in cases of administrative detention, including administrative detentions in relation to public security legislation’.

[3]  Tawfeeq Jabir Al Aamir is a Shia writer and scholar, aged 43, married and the Imam of A’imat Al Baqee’ Mosque in Al Hasa. He was arrested on 28/2/2011 for eight days because of his speech during Friday prayers in which he called for a constitutional monarchy and the elimination of sectarian discrimination in Saudi. He was arrested again on 3/8/2011, and was accused of inciting the public. He was imprisoned at Malaz Prison in Riyadh and did not stand trial. It is noteworthy that despite the fact that he lives in Al Hasa, the Authorities imprisoned him in Riyadh making it difficult for his family to visit him. The distance between Riyadh and Al Hasa is 300 Kilometres.

[4]  Natheer Al Majid is a Saudi writer from Al Qateef aged 35 and works as a lab technician in Jabal Al Noor School in Khobar. He is married with two children and was arrested at his work place on 17/4/2011. His house was searched and was kept in solitary confinement for 144 days. He was allowed family visits after 150 days. There are allegations that Al Majid was tortured by the Investigator and was forced to stand up for long hours with his hands up. He was previously arrested twice for his participation in the demonstrations which took place in Al Qateef in 2000 in solidarity with Palestine and in 2006 in support of Lebanon.

[5]  Fadil Al Sulayman aged 50, is married and an activist from Al Hasa. He works as a supervisor for public relations in the Directorate of Education in Dammam. He was arrested on 18/3/2011 and accused of leading the protests which started from Al Baqee’ Mosque, terrorising citizens and disobeying the instructions of the King and the Fatwa of the Council of Senior Scholars. He was also accused of being part of a foreign agenda and inciting sectarianism. Currently, he will be trialled by the Specialised Criminal Court and is detained in Al Hasa General Prison.

[6]  For more information with regards to the arrest of journalists please see the statement of the Journalists Protection Committee on 16/3 2012 on this link:

[7]  Dr Mubark bin Zo’air is a human rights activist and was temporarily released from custody. He is the Assistant Professor of Modern Literature at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University. He was arrested on 19/3/2011 and released on 29/2/2012. His case is also being looked into by the Criminal Court. He was accused of: insulting the King, inciting schism, attending illegal demonstrations and ignoring the fatwa of the Council of Seniors Scholars in Saudi.

[8]  Dr Yusif bin Abdualla Al Ahmad is a professor of Fiqh (jurisprudence) at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh. In 2011, Al Ahmad broadcasted four youtube videos in which he called for implementing the law with regards to political prisoners. He was arrested on 8/6/2011 and sentenced to five years in prison and given a one hundred thousand riyal fine for ‘broadcasting material that incites against the King, encouraging sedition and breaching the Labour Law’. This is according to a statement by Ahmad’s defence team which was issued on 18/4/2012.

[9]  Khalid Al Jehani, aged 40, works as a teacher in the Ministry of Education. He was detained after he spoke to the BBC during the Day of Rage on 11/3/2011. He was accused of being present at a demonstration location, speaking to foreign channels and harming the reputation of the Kingdom. Jehani is being trialled in the Specialised Criminal Court and was kept in solitary confinement for two months. There are also allegations that he was ill treated and is currently in Al- Ha’ir Prison.

[10]  Mohammed Al Wad’ani, aged 30, was arrested on 4/3/2011 for broadcasting youtube videos and He also called for protesting opposite Al Rajhi Mosque No information is available as to whether he was trialled or just detained in Olaisha Prison.

[11]  For more information regarding the Saudi Labour law please see:

[12]  Article (119) states ‘in all cases, the Investigator shall order that the accused may not communicate with any other prisoner or detainee, and that he not be visited by anyone for a period not exceeding sixty days if the interest of the investigation so requires, without prejudice to the right of the accused to communicate with his representative or attorney’.

[13]  To read all recommendations please see the following link:


[14]  1- Nasir Ali Mahashi, aged 19 on 21/11/2011, 2- Ali Hasan Al Filfil, aged 24 on 22/11/2011, 3- Moneeb Al Adnan aged 21 on 23/11/2011, 4- Ali Abdualla Iqrayres aged 26 on 23/11/2011, 5- Esam Mohammed Abo Abdualla aged 22 on 13/1/2012, 6- Moneer Abdualla Al Maydani, aged 21 9/2/2012, 7- Zohair abdualla Al Saeed aged 21 on 19/2/2012.

[15]  On Saturday 3/12/2011, the Governor of the eastern Province, Mohammed Bin Fahad, met four of the families of the dead and promised to investigate the incidents and punish those responsible. He gave each family 100 thousand riyals. On 28/12/ 2011, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement stating that ‘the Ministry is taking all necessary procedures to investigate the incidents and find out the reasons and will implement all legal procedures in order to protect the rights and the safety of citizens’. Until now the Saudi Government has failed to fulfil its commitments to investigate and announce the outcomes. This is despite the fact that the Authorities conducted a medical post-mortem of all the dead.

[16]  To read the full report see

[17]  On 2/10/ 2011, the Saudi Authority arrested Saeed Abdualla Abdulaal and Hassan Ahmad Ali Al Ziyed. Both men are over sixty years old, and were arrested in order to put pressure on their sons who were accused of participation in demonstrations in Al Awamiya. At 7 pm, Al Manasif went to police station in order to explain that arresting the two fathers is an illegal action. Because Al Ziyed collapsed due to heart condition, the Saudi Red Crescent was called to rescue him. Al Manasif then followed the ambulance until he was stopped at a checkpoint between Safwa and Al Awamiya.

[18]  The accusations as they were stated by the Civil and Political Rights Society:

[19]  Dr.Abdulkarim bin Yousef bin Abdulkarim Alkhder is a Professor in comparative Islamic Law in the Sharia College, which is part of the University of Qasim. (He was banned from work since 2010 and banned from travel since 2009.He is the head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association and is barred from giving religious lectures in Mosques since 2008.

[20]  Human rights activist, Waleed Abu Al Khair, was summoned by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution on 30/4/2012 and was accused of inciting the public and harming the reputation of the Kingdom and its rulers.

[21]  Dr Al Qahtani was summoned by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution several times since March 2012 and his investigation is still continuing on the background of his human rights activities.

[22]  Article (6) section (2) of the System of Travel Document which was issued by a Royal Decree no M/24 on 28/5/1421 AH, which states that ‘any citizen must not be prevented from travelling without a court order or a decision by the Minister of Interior and for reasons related to security and for a specific period. In both cases the person should be informed within one week of the issuing of the ban’.

[23]  The Appeal Court of the Administrative Court rejected many lawsuits filed by some citizens. For example, Dr Abdualla Al Hamid and human rights activist Fahad Abdulaziz Al Oraini filed lawsuits against the decision to ban them from travelling. The Court said that these kinds of lawsuits are outside its speciality as they relate to sovereignty of the State. This is based on Article (9) of The Board of Grievances which states that ‘the Board is not permitted to deal with any cases that relate to the sovereignty of the State’.

[24]  To read the full Comment (20) see

[25]  Al We’aam electronic newspaper on 29/3/2012: Also, the Ministry Of Education’s directive to its employees instructing them not to sign any statements which criticise Government policies published by Al Madina newspaper in issue no (17887) on 13/4/2012:

[26]  The statistic as stated in the Saudi Al Jazeera Newspaper in issue no (14449) on 20/4/2012:

[27]  See this link

[28]  The statistic according to the Saudi Minister of Justice as published on Al Jazeera newspaper in issue no (14446) on 17/4/2012,

[29]  The letter states ‘brothers and sisters on scholarships. Based on the directive which the Cultural Bureau received from the Embassy of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Canada, we would like to remind all students in Canada that they should not make any statements to the media and especially to foreign ones. They should go to the Embassy for advice. We thank you and appreciate your cooperation for the good of our beloved country’.

[30]  The statistics according to the Deputy Minister of Higher Education Ahmad Al Saif as stated in Al Riyadh newspaper in issue no (16013) on 27/4/2012, :

[31]  To read the full interview with the Minister of Justice, Mohammed Al Esa

[32]  To see document no (E/CN.4/1993/62) on 6/1/1993 see:

[33]  The Government is lenient with regards to punishing those involved in the incitement of hatred. For example, Lawyer Sultan bin Abdualla Al Zahim attacked the Shias on his twitter account stating ‘ I think if Shia children were tested , the result would be that only a few of them match their fathers genes, for they are illegitimate children’. Moreover, on 28/4/2012, Sheikh Sulayman Ahmad Al Darwish wrote on twitter ‘those who call for good relations between Sunnis and Shias and believe that they are unjustly treated are either ignorant, have religious agendas or the religion of Allah is their last concern’. The Authorities need to seriously look into this problem. Both of these men clearly violated Article (12) of the Basic Law of Governance which states that the ‘consolidation of national unity is a duty. The State shall forbid all activities that may lead to division, disorder and partition’. They also violated Article (39) which states that ‘it is prohibited to commit acts leading to disorder and division, affecting the security of the State and its public relations, or undermining human dignity and rights’. On 26/3/2007, Article 6 of the newly enacted Anti-Crime Act in the Kingdom threatens with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 3 million riyals for breaching personal privacy by illegally “sending” private information about individuals using data networks. Also, the Press and Publication Law states in it its amendments on 29/4/2011 which is based on the Royal Decree No. (M/32) on 3/9/1421, that the any person who incites disunity between citizens and harms the country will be punished.

[34]  For more details check this link:

[35]  For more information please see the following links:

[36]  The Exhibition is organised by Al Salam Club and was organised previously in 2005 and 2009. For more information see:

[37]  For more information about the Ninth Development Plan Chapter (18) see;jsessionid=D7FB5A2A8A13AE77940AE078AEB00CB9.alfa?Download.ObjectID=226

[38]  For more information about the Ninth Development Plan Chapter (18) see;jsessionid=D7FB5A2A8A13AE77940AE078AEB00CB9.alfa?Download.ObjectID=226

[39]  To see the full recommendation with regards to public participation in the cultural life please see:
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