Contribute to Human Rights Watch
|HOME | SITEMAP | SEARCH | CONTACT | REPORTS | PRESS ARCHIVES|
|HRW World Report 2001: Saudi Arabia||FREE Join the HRW Mailing List|
Saudi Arabia: No Transparency in Justice System
Rights of Detainees in Criminal Proceedings Violated
(New York, February 9, 2001)
Authorities in Saudi Arabia are undermining internationally accepted norms of justice, Human Rights Watch said today.
"Confessions obtained in such circumstances should not be admissible in court," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The defendants should be questioned again in the presence of their lawyers to ensure that their statements were not obtained under duress."
The international monitoring organization cited Saudi interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz's own acknowledgement, in an interview with the Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat on February 6, that "we have not completed the investigation."
One of the suspects who "confessed" was U.K. citizen Alexander Mitchell. Saudi authorities did not notify Britain of his arrest on December 17, 2000, and he was held in incommunicado detention until late January. The Canadian suspect, William Sampson, was arrested on December 16, 2000 and held incommunicado until January 27, 2001.
Human Rights Watch called on Saudi authorities to end the routine practice of incommunicado detention, and to provide all detainees with access to lawyers during the criminal investigation process, including interrogation. The organization also said that the governments of detained foreign nationals should be promptly informed following arrests and permitted immediately to communicate with them.
It is not clear who ordered that the alleged confessions of the three Westerners be broadcast on Saudi television on February 4, prior to the completion of the investigation and formal lodging of charges.
Under Saudi law, the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses is the responsibility of the Public Investigation and Prosecution Department. This branch of the judicial authority "forms part of the Kingdom's system of criminal justice" and "functions in a fully independent manner," according to the Saudi Foreign Ministry. Article 5 of the department's statutes states: "The members of the Department shall enjoy full independence and, in their work, shall be subject only to the provisions of the Islamic shariah and the regulations in force. No one shall have the right to interfere in their work."
Human Rights Watch said it was not plausible that the director of the Public Investigation and Prosecution Department (PIPD) would have the authority to order the showing of videotaped confessions of alleged suspects on television. "The interior minister has stated publicly that the investigation of this case is in progress," said Megally. "If so, the public broadcasting of confessions during an investigation suggests high-level interference."
Human Rights Watch called on Saudi officials to disclose whether the three men were provided with attorneys during the criminal examination process and, particularly, when the alleged confessions were taken. Under Saudi law, the right to counsel is guaranteed. This right was noted by the Saudi Foreign Ministry in a report published last year entitled "Protection of Human Rights in Criminal Procedure and in the Organization of the Justice System." The report stated in pertinent part:
During an interrogation, a suspect has a guaranteed right to a lawyer or legal representative who, having attended the examination, is entitled to submit a written memorandum containing his comments, which the examiner must include in the case file. The examiner does not have the right to separate the accused from his lawyer or legal representative during the examination.
Human Rights Watch noted that the Foreign Ministry's report also stated that interrogations should "take place in circumstances that do not influence the suspect's freedom to make statements and present his defense." The organization said it was deeply concerned that the suspects were held incommunicado.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty that obligates state parties to respect and enforce the rights of all persons, including those facing criminal charges. But the Kingdom is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Article 11 of this convention requires each state party to "keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture."
|HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH||HOME | SITEMAP | SEARCH | CONTACT | REPORTS | PRESS ARCHIVES|