Annual Report: Saudi Arabia 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Saudi Arabia 2013

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  • Detainees held at al-Hair prison reportedly told their families in August that they were assaulted by prison guards and feared for their lives.

Women's rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice, and were inadequately protected against domestic and other gender-based violence.

For the first time, two Saudi Arabian women were permitted to participate in the Olympic Games, under conditions relating to the Islamic dress code and the presence of male guardians.

Women continued to be required by law to obtain the permission of a male guardian before getting married, travelling, undertaking paid employment or enrolling in higher education. Saudi Arabian women with foreign spouses, unlike their male counterparts, could not pass on their nationality to their children. Women continued to be prohibited from driving, although the “Women2Drive” campaign by local activists challenged the ban. Discriminatory rules relating to marriage and divorce appeared to cause some women to remain trapped in violent and abusive relationships.

Migrant workers' rights

Migrant workers, who comprised around a third of the population, were inadequately protected by labour laws and were vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by employers. Women domestic workers in particular were at risk of sexual violence and other abuses.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments

The courts continued to impose sentences of flogging as a principal or additional punishment for many offences. At least five defendants were sentenced to flogging of 1,000 to 2,500 lashes. Flogging was carried out in prisons.

Death penalty

The courts continued to impose death sentences for a range of drugs and other offences. Several hundred prisoners were believed to be on death row; some for many years. At least 79 prisoners were executed, mostly in public. They included at least 52 Saudi Arabians and at least 27 foreign nationals, including at least one woman. Some prisoners were executed for non-violent offences.

  • Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker, remained on death row. She was convicted in 2007 of murdering her employer's baby when aged 17, at a trial in which she had no defence lawyer. She confessed during police questioning, possibly under duress, and later withdrew her confession.
  • Suliamon Olyfemi, a Nigerian national, remained on death row having been sentenced to death after an unfair trial in 2004.
  • Qassem bin Rida bin Salman al-Mahdi, Khaled bin Muhammad bin Issa al-Qudaihi and Ali Hassan Issa al-Buri, all Saudi Arabian nationals, appeared to be at risk of execution after exhausting all appeals against their convictions on drugs charges. They reportedly had no access to a lawyer while held in pre-trial detention following arrest in July 2004; at least one was reportedly coerced to “confess”. Ali Hassan Issa al-Buri was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison and 4,000 lashes but was sentenced to death when the General Court in Qurayyat rejected a Court of Cassation ruling that the sentences on the other two should be commuted. All three death sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Judicial Council in 2007.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International continued to be effectively barred from visiting Saudi Arabia to conduct human rights research.
  • Saudi Arabia's ‘Day of Rage': One year on (MDE 23/007/2012)
  • Saudi Arabia: Dissident voices stifled in the Eastern Province (MDE 23/011/2012)