Corporate report

Saudi Arabia - Country of Concern: latest update, 30 September 2014

Updated 21 January 2015

0.1 Latest Update: 30 September 2014

There has been no significant change in the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia between July and September.

Following the Royal Diwan’s announcement at the end of June, that King Abdullah would pardon a number of prisoners who have been accused of violating public rights, the King ordered the release of 1,789 public right prisoners in Jeddah in July to mark the holy month of Ramadan.

In July, King Abdullah personally intervened to prevent 12 people from being executed by asking victims’ families to agree not to enforce their right to have perpetrators executed. However, there were at least 24 executions in August, following a hiatus on executions during Ramadan. 57 people were executed between January and September 2014, in comparison to 66 for the same period last year. The majority of executions were for the crimes of murder, armed robbery, and drugs-related offences. We continue to have concerns about the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, including that the executions do not meet EU minimum standards. We frequently raise the issue with the Saudi authorities, bilaterally and through the European Union.

We are continuing to engage with the Saudi government on the issue of women’s rights as we still have serious concerns, particularly in respect of the guardianship system. However, the number of women in employment is increasing; in July it was reported, by the Saudi government, that over 400,000 Saudi women were now employed in the private sector. This is up from 183,000 in 2013.

Our embassy in Riyadh is monitoring the Saudi Arabian government’s new initiative against illegal migrants. In July, during the first month of the initiative, over 700 suspected illegal migrants were arrested in Riyadh. We have no evidence that any human rights conventions have been breached at this time.

We welcome the comments by the King and religious leaders calling for greater religious tolerance in the Kingdom. In his Friday Khutba (sermon) on 4 July, Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Sudais, Imam of the Holy Mosque in Mecca, highlighted the importance of tolerance and dialogue in society, and called on Muslims to reject violence and terrorism. We will continue to work with the Saudi Arabian authorities on the issue of freedom of religion or belief.

There have been further efforts toward judicial modernisation in Saudi Arabia. In August, as part of a $1.6 billion reform programme, the Minister of Justice, Dr Muhammed Abdul-Kareem al-Issa, opened the Family Court, the first specialised court in Saudi Arabia; and, in September, the Ministry of Justice announced plans to build 22 new courts in ten cities at a cost of $320 million. These developments are aimed at increasing the speed and efficiency of the judicial system.

We continue to support these reforms; on 10 September, the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, visited Saudi Arabia and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Arabian Minister of Justice. This MoU is a mechanism for dialogue and exchange of expertise on justice, legal and human rights matters. Mr Grayling raised human rights concerns during his visit, and met the Human Rights and Legal Committees of the Majlis al Shura, and the National Society for Human Rights.   ##Give your comments and questions about the report Submit a question or comment on the report here

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