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Human rights in Saudi Arabia

The situation of human rights in Saudi Arabia is generally considered to be very poor. Under the authoritarian rule of the Saudi royal family, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has enforced strict laws under a doctrine of Wahabism (a fundamentalist interpretation of sharia, Islamic religious law). Basic freedoms as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not allowed; capital punishment and other penalties are often given to suspected criminals without due process. Saudi Arabia has also come under fire for its oppression of religious and political minorities, torture of prisoners, and attitude toward foreign expatriates, Censored page, and women. Though major human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly expressed concern about the states of human rights in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom denies that any human rights abuses take place.


Corporal and capital punishment

Saudi Arabia is one of a number of countries where courts continue to impose corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and floggings for lesser crimes such as "sexual deviance" and drunkenness. The number of lashes is not clearly prescribed by law and varied according to the discretion of judges, and range from dozens of lashes to several thousand, usually applied over a period of weeks or months. Saudi Arabia also still engages in capital punishment, including public executions by beheading, stoning and crucifixion.

In 2002, the United Nations Committee against Torture criticised Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under its interpretation of Sharia. The Saudi delegation responded defending "legal traditions" held since the inception of Islam 1400 years ago and rejected interference in its legal system.

Women's rights

By western standards Saudi women face severe discrimination in many aspects of their lives, including the family, education, employment, and the justice system. The sexes are not equal in Saudi Arabia. Religious police enforces a modesty code of dress, even asking American Armed Services women to cover their heads. Institutions from schools to ministries are always gender-segregated.


Saudi Arabia was among the last nations to end the practice of slavery. While most muslim states had ended slavery in the 1930s and 1940s, the practice was not abolished in Saudi Arabia until 1962.

Political Freedoms

Freedom of speech is restricted in Saudi Arabia with criticisms of the government stifled. Trade unions and political organizations are banned.

Religious freedoms

Saudi Arabia forbids missionary work by any religion other than Islam. Officially all religions other than Islam are banned and churches are not allowed outside of foreign enclaves. Other religions, specifically Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, are not tolerated. In an extreme case foreign workers have been incarcerated in the past for owning a rosary. "Freedom of religion does not exist," the U.S. State Department's 1997 Human Rights Report on Saudi Arabia states. "Islam is the official religion, and all citizens must be Muslims. The government prohibits the public practice of other religions." "It is absurd to impose on an individual or a society rights that are alien to its beliefs or principles," Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz at the U.N. Third Millennium summit in New York City, New York on 6 September.

Foreigners are forced to conform to Muslim practices in public, an example being on October 11, 2004, just before Ramadan, the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry requested that all non-Muslims currently in Saudi Arabia refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public. "Authorities will take deterrent measures such as terminating work contracts of, and deporting, violators" [1]

External links

  • Amnesty International 2003 report on Saudi Arabia
  • Freedom House on Saudi Arabia

Last updated: 02-19-2005 20:16:36
Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12