For years, Saudi Arabia has had the honour to be one of the principal violators of human rights in the world. Regardless of its efforts to hide it from the international community, numerous local human rights organisations have regularly exposed the abuses perpetrated by the regime. In response, the Saudi government has banned all international human rights organisations from entering Saudi Arabia. As numerous organisations have suggested, the primary problem remains in the system and the interpretation of the Sharia (Islamic law).
Saudi Arabia uses Sharia (Islamic law) as its domestic legislation. There is no a formal penal code; the criminal justice court derives its interpretation from an extreme version of Sharia. In most of cases, detainees do not have a fair trial and are not allowed to meet with a lawyer during their interrogations. Further, the authorities do not usually inform them about their charges until the trial has already started and their lawyers are never allowed to interview witnesses or even present evidence during the trial. Judges usually sentence detainees to flogging, with hundreds of lashes. Children can also be judged as adults if there are signs of puberty. Saudi authorities detain suspects for months, or even years, without judicial review or prosecution. Here are some cases of extreme abuses and detentions in recent years:
Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 for insulting Islam through electronic channels.When Badawi was arrested, he was running a liberal blog advocating for human rights in Saudi Arabia. He used his blog to expose the violations of human rights committed by the Saudi government. In 2013, Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, but in 2014, he was resentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in jail plus a fine. Badawi is currently in prison in precarious health; according to his wife he could soon die if he is not released.
2. Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr.
Ali Al-Nimr was just 17 years old when he was sentenced to death by crucifixion in the wake of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprising. He was accused of participation in an illegal demonstration and as well as a large number of other offences. Like most of the human rights defenders detained in Saudi Arabia, Al-Nimr was tortured and forced to sign a criminal confession. He is currently in prison awaiting his crucifixion which could happen at any time without notice.
On January 8, 2017, the human rights defender Koshak was summoned for interrogation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Mecca and was immediately detained. Koshak was interrogated about his Twitter account, where he frequently exposed the violations of human rights committed by the Saudi regime. Like other detainees, he was not allowed to meet with a lawyer during his interrogation. Koshak is currently detained while awaiting his trial.
On May 22, 2012, at the age of 17, Dawood Al-Marhoon was arrested for allegedly participating in peaceful anti-government protests during the Arab Spring. During his detention, Dawood was tortured and forced to sign a false confession. On October 21, 2014, the criminal court sentenced him to death by beheading. Dawood is currently awaiting his execution while being tortured on a regular basis. He could be executed at any time without previous notice.
These three cases represent a sample from the hundreds of human rights defenders who have been unfairly detained and killed in recent years by the Saudi government. Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 150 persons between January and mid-November, mostly for murder and terrorism-related offences. However, among these executions, there were 22 for non-violent drug crimes, including human rights defenders. In Saudi Arabia, most executions are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. Aside from the illegal detention and execution of human rights defenders, the Saudi regime also commits other sorts of violations of human rights.
In 2016, while holding an illegal blockade in Yemen, the Saudi government authorised 58 unlawful airstrikes, killing 800 civilians and hitting homes, markets, hospitals, schools, and mosques. Because of the Saudi blockade, an estimated 14.4 million Yemenis were unable to meet their food needs, according to the United Nations.
In Saudi Arabia women are denigrated, they must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel, to marry, to exit prison, or to get access to health care. They also need a male relative to do transactions, such as filing legal claims or renting an apartment. Most of the schools do not offer physical education for women, and until recent times women were not allowed to participate in national competitions. The labour situation for women is not better. They face a range of abuses including being overworked, non-payment of wages, food deprivation, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. Women who attempt to report employer abuses sometimes face prosecution based on counterclaims of theft, “black magic,” or “sorcery.”
Despite numerous investigations concluding that in 2015/2016 the Saudi Regime was the principal violator of human rights in the world, on Nov. 21, 2016, the United Nations elected Saudi Arabia, represented by Abdulaziz, to a 3-year term on its Human Rights Council.
As mentioned earlier, Trump’s administration has decided to continue collaborating with the Saudi regime by doing some business and providing them weapons. It is clear that if Trump wants to eradicate Islamic terrorism and advocate for human rights, he should stop collaborating with Saudi Arabia and apply high standards to himself.
Unfortunately, Trump has not been the only U.S. president who has collaborated with the Saudi regime. Under Obama’s presidency, the U.S. provided Saudi Arabia weapons and intelligence support during the illegal Saudi military operations in Yemen. In August, the US government approved a US$1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, despite significant opposition from members of Congress, who were concerned about Saudi conduct in Yemen.
While countries like the U.S. collaborate with the Saudi regime, it will continue violating human rights, executing innocents and boosting Islamic terrorism. The only way to change the Saudi system is by uniting the international community to push the kingdom to reform its system and guarantee basic rights to its citizens. Until then, Trump has lost his legitimacy as a president since he has already violated his promise to cut off ties with Arabia Saudi.
In the near future, we will see whether the Saudi government will reform its system. Though there is not much hope, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.The destiny of millions of people are in the hands of the international community led by the U.S. Hopefully, Trump will soon realize his huge mistake and will halt his collaboration with Saudi Arabia. It could then be the beginning of the new dawn where human rights are respected.