2000 Public Statement

Statement from Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding 2000 Amnesty International Report on Saudi Arabia
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement on March 27, 2000 in response to the recent Amnesty International report on Saudi Arabia:

May I first refer to the claim that there have been code violations and cruel, degrading and inhuman behavior by the police as well as torture and the detention of prisoners on an arbitrary basis and for unspecified terms.

The laws and regulations of Saudi Arabia prohibit torture in all its forms and the Kingdom is a signatory to the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Torture and inhuman treatment are crimes punishable by the laws and regulations of the Kingdom. Article (36) of the Basic System of Government declares that 'the State provides security to all of its citizens and residents and no person shall be restrained or arrested or detained unless on lawful grounds'.

Article (100) of the Directorate of General Security Order states that if the accused refuses to provide information, he or she should be asked by the investigator, without any compulsion or torture, to explain his or her grounds for remaining silent.

Article (231) of the same Order directs that whosoever brings about the detention of an individual without due cause, or inflicts harm or injury, should be punished by imprisonment for a term equivalent to the period of false imprisonment and be held liable for damages.

Article (28) of the Prison Regulations states that no prisoner or detainee should be suffer any form of assault. Punitive measures are to be taken against any civil or military official convicted of such violations.

Accused persons must have a fair trial in all its stages. The accused has the right to delegate his defense to whosoever he wishes. Article (59) of the order of Procedure of Administration Work at the Shariah Court says, 'everyone has the right to delegate the defiance of this case without limitation. If the accused does not understand the Arabic language the court must provide a translator without charge to the accused'

Article (33) of the Judicial System of Saudi Arabia declares that all court sittings must be in public unless the court feels that the proceedings should be private in order to spare the embarrassment of individuals and their families, or to protect the general good. The verdict in all cases must be made public.

The prisons in Saudi Arabia were not established for the sake of punishment and revenge. Their aims are to reform and rehabilitate offenders. There are several programs applied inside Saudi Arabia to reform and educate prisoners into the ways of good citizens who may then contribute to the advancement and development of the country. When the prisoner has served his term he goes back to his work and resumes his place in society with full rights and without conditions or limitations. Each year, especially during the Holy month of Ramadan, the government releases a large number of prisoners purely as a noble, humanitarian gesture.

Referring to the point about arbitrary arrest and detention and the claim that prisoners may not know that they have been arrested and are sometimes denied a fair trial, I would like to point out that the criminal system in Saudi Arabia takes very great care of arrest procedures and has set up a number of controls to ensure that justice is properly administered.

As regards the matter of arrest and temporary detention, Article (5) of this system states that upon confirmed suspicions, the period under arrest without charge should not exceed 3 days and must be based on the written directives of the investigative body'.

Article (8) of the same system declares that at the end of a three -day detention period the accused must be set free by order of the head of the division in which the investigation takes place, if there is no evidence of the persons guilt. However, in the case of major crimes, the authorities will issue a memorandum placing the individuals under arrest for a period not to exceed 21 days from the date of the memorandum. This also reflects Article (12) which calls for the accused to the presented to court after 21 days so that the case may be reviewed.

I would know like to address the claim that because of the vast oil reserves and great economic importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the UN and individual states have conspired to cover up violations of human rights by the Kingdom.

I wish to reiterate that this is untrue and does not reflect the new world order which calls for justice and the protection of the human rights of all people. Neither does the claim reflect the reality of the situation since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has used its oil revenues to ensure the prosperity and advancement of Saudi Society through massive investment in education, culture and the infrastructure. Saudi Arabia enjoys universal free education, free health services, social security for all, overseas scholarships and training for the sake of national development. Furthermore some seven million non-Saudi workers and residents (a large percentage of the total population) enjoy the financial and social gains of their labors and can transfer income to their home countries as they wish.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has given much support to international organizations involved in the advancement of peace, stability and international welfare. The country has contributed in no small measure to international aid programs and is a major donor and loan provider to the less developed countries.

The claim that there are 100 to 200 political prisoners in the Kingdom is untrue. As has been confirmed by the Ministry of the Interior on numerous occasions, there are no political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

It has been said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has refused to cooperate with international human rights organizations. Once again, this is not the case. Saudi Arabia has replied in detail and clarified many issues relating to all the Amnesty International reports for the years 1996 to 1999, thereby confirming its keen interest and commitment to the cause of human rights. The kingdom is close to establishing government and non-government institutions to ensure further the protection of human rights in the country.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia acknowledges the noble objectives of Amnesty International. However, the organization's reports often lack accuracy and are short on factual information, with a resulting loss in objectivity. We hope this can be avoided by Amnesty in Future.