October 20, 2008

New York, Monday, October 20, 2008

H.R.H. Prince Sa’ud al-Faisal Al Sa’ud
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Your Royal Highness,

We respectfully request that you grant visas to two members of Human Rights Watch’s staff, in order to allow them to observe the trials of 70 defendants at Riyadh’s Greater Court on charges of domestic rebellion. With the permission of the presiding judge, our experts would like to monitor the proceedings to document the observance of basic fair trial standards guaranteed under international law.

During our 2006 visit to the kingdom, we discussed with Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs Prince Muhammad bin Nayif Al Sa’ud the importance of providing fair trials to persons allegedly implicated in national security offenses in Saudi Arabia. We are encouraged that the government has decided to proceed with these trials.

For justice to be done, it has to be fair, and to be seen as fair. Especially in trials of national and international importance, such as these, Human Rights Watch believes it is imperative to allow neutral observers to monitor the proceedings.

Human Rights Watch has extensive experience in covering high-profile trials of international consequence, including the trial of Saddam Hussein before Iraq’s Special Tribunal and the trials of suspected terrorist offenders in the U.S. Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We also regularly monitor ordinary trials at proceedings in numerous countries, including several in the Middle East.

We believe that your decision to allow Human Rights Watch observers to monitor these trials would be consistent with Saudi Arabia’s determination to maintain strong cooperative relationships with human rights organizations. We were pleased to note that in 2006, when Saudi Arabia presented its candidacy to the newly-established U.N. Human Rights Council, it emphasized that it “pursues the policy of active cooperation with international organizations in the field of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms.” In February 2009, Saudi Arabia will be able to present details of that cooperation under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, in which states will examine the Kingdom’s rights record.

Attached please find the roster of experts for whom we seek visas. We will seek the cooperation of the Human Rights Commission in coordinating our visits and trial attendance.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director

Cc:
H.E. Adel Al-Jubeir, Ambassador or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States of America
Shaik Abdullah bin Muhammad Al al-Shaikh, Minister of Justice
H.R.H. Prince Nayef bin Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa’ud, Minister of the Interior
H.E. Shaikh Turki bin Khalid al-Sudairi, President, Human Rights Commission