Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Head of state and government King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz
The authorities severely restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly and clamped down on dissent. Government critics and political activists were detained without trial or sentenced after grossly unfair trials. Women were discriminated against in law and practice and inadequately protected against domestic and other violence. Migrant workers were exploited and abused. Sentences of flogging were imposed and carried out. Hundreds of people were on death row at the end of the year; at least 79 people were executed.
In January, the head of the religious police said he would issue guidelines advising his forces that they are not empowered to arrest or interrogate Saudi Arabian citizens or to attend trials.
Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud became Crown Prince following the death of Prince Naif bin ‘Abdul Aziz Al Saud in June.
Also in June, the semi-official National Society for Human Rights published its third report on human rights and urged the government to end discrimination; to strengthen the regulatory powers of the Shura Council; to require arresting and detaining authorities to comply with the Code of Criminal Procedure and to hold to account those who do not comply.
Repression of dissent
The authorities continued to clamp down on people calling for political and other reform as well as human rights defenders and activists. Some were detained without charge or trial; others faced prosecution on vague charges such as “disobeying the ruler”.
- Dr Abdullah bin Hamid bin Ali al-Hamid and Mohammad bin Fahad bin Muflih al-Qahtani, co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), an unlicensed NGO, were charged with threatening state security, inciting disorder and undermining national unity, disobeying and breaking allegiance to the ruler, and questioning the integrity of officials. The charges appeared to arise from their involvement in setting up ACPRA, calling for protests, and criticizing the judiciary for accepting as evidence “confessions” allegedly made under torture or other duress. Their trial began in June but had not concluded by the end of the year.
- Mohammed Saleh al-Bajady, another of ACPRA's co-founders, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment in April and banned from travelling abroad for five years. He was convicted of communicating with foreign bodies to “undermine security” and other offences, including harming the state's image through the media, calling for protests by detainees' families and possessing banned books. He went on hunger strike for five weeks to protest against his imprisonment.
- Fadhel Maki al-Manasif, a human rights activist detained since October 2011, went on trial in April charged with sedition, “inciting public opinion against the state”, “disrupting order by participating in marches” and other offences, apparently because of his human rights activism. His trial was ongoing at the end of the year.
- Human rights defender and writer Mikhlif bin Daham al-Shammari went on trial before the Specialized Criminal Court in March. He faced an array of charges, including seeking to damage Saudi Arabia's reputation in the international media, communicating with suspect organizations and accusing state organs of corruption. He had been released on bail in February after a year and a half in detention. He was arrested after he publicly criticized alleged prejudice by Sunni religious scholars against the Shi'a minority and their beliefs. In April, the authorities banned him from leaving Saudi Arabia for 10 years. His trial was continuing at the end of the year.
- Khaled al-Johani, the only man to reach the site of a planned demonstration in Riyadh to mark a “Day of Rage” on 11 March 2011, was released on 8 August and was believed to be no longer facing trial. His exact legal status was unclear. He was allowed out of prison for a two-day family visit in July.
Counter-terror and security
A draft anti-terrorism law was reported to have been amended by the Shura Council but it had not been enacted by the end of the year.