Proposed Saudi Arabia "Anti-Terror" Law Would Crush Peaceful Dissent and Protest, Says Amnesty International

Press Release
July 22, 2011

Proposed Saudi Arabia "Anti-Terror" Law Would Crush Peaceful Dissent and Protest, Says Amnesty International

Human Rights Organization Obtained Copies of Top Secret Draft Law

This link takes you to the draft law (in Arabic): http://www.amnesty.org/sites/impact.amnesty.org/files/PUBLIC/Saudi%20anti-terror.pdf


Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org


(New York) – Amnesty International has obtained copies of a secret draft Saudi Arabian anti-terrorism law that would allow the authorities to prosecute peaceful dissent with harsh penalties as "terrorist crime." Under the draft law, the definition of terrorist crimes is so broad that legitimate dissent would, in effect, be criminalized.
The organization obtained copies of the "Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism," which would also allow extended detention without charge or trial. Questioning the integrity of the King or the Crown Prince would carry a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.


The leak of the draft comes as ongoing peaceful protests across the Middle East and North Africa are being met with government repression.


"This draft law poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in the Kingdom in the name of preventing terrorism," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director, Middle East and North Africa program.
“If passed it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism and risk massive human rights violations."


"At a time when people throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been exercising their legitimate right to express dissent and call for change, Saudi Arabian authorities have been seeking to squash this right for its citizens," said Luther.


A Saudi Arabian government security committee reviewed the draft law in June but it is not known when or if it might be adopted.


The definition of "terrorist crimes" in the draft is so broad that it lends itself to wide interpretation and abuse, and would in effect criminalize legitimate dissent.


Under the draft law, terrorist crimes would include such actions as “endangering…national unity”, "halting the basic law or some of its articles", or "harming the reputation of the state or its position".


Violations of the law would carry harsh punishments. The death penalty would be applied to cases of taking up arms against the state or for any “terrorist crimes” that result in death.


A number of other key provisions in the draft law run counter to Saudi Arabia’s international legal obligations, including those under the United Nation Convention against Torture.


The draft law allows for suspects to be held in incommunicado detention for up to 120 days, or for longer periods – potentially indefinitely – if authorized by a specialized court.


Incommunicado detention facilitates torture or other ill-treatment and prolonged detention of that nature can itself amount to torture.


Detainees in incommunicado detention are also, by definition, denied access to a lawyer during their investigation.


The draft law allows for arbitrary detention: it denies detainees the right to be promptly brought before a judge, and to be released or tried within a reasonable time. It gives the specialized court the power to detain without charge or trial for up to a year, and to extend such detention indefinitely. Detainees are not given a means to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in front of a court.


It also fails to include a clear prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.


The draft law gives wide-ranging powers to the Minister of the Interior "to take the necessary actions to protect internal security from any terrorist threat." It does not allow for judicial authorization or oversight of these actions.


Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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