University of Minnesota



International Non-Government Organization Reports - Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Watch Reports
Amnesty International Reports

FIDH’s Reports

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula
Human Rights Watch Reports
Empty Reforms: Saudi Arabia's New Basic Laws. May 1992

“On March 1, 1992, King Fahd ibn Abdel-Aziz issued three major laws: the Basic Law of Government, the Consultative Council Law and the Law of Provinces. The first formalizes several aspects of the constitutional framework of the country; the second replaces the existing council, established in 1926, with a new council to be appointed by the king within six months; and the third aims at regulating the relationship between central government agencies and regional governors, replacing a 1963 law that was never implemented. While these laws constitute significant steps toward codifying the largely unwritten legal system of the country, they fall far short of internationally recognized standards in their treatment of civil and political rights. Disappointingly, the final products are far below expectations, and Empty Reforms explains and analyzes each.”
Flawed Justice: The Execution of `Abd al-Karim Mara`i al-Naqshabandi. October 1997

“In stark contrast to the worldwide trend toward abolition of the death penalty, in Saudi Arabia its use has become increasingly frequent. Since 1990 at least 540 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia, usually by public beheading; at least one hundred people were reported executed in the first nine months of 1997 alone. Most of these were foreigners accused of any of a variety of offenses, including drug-trafficking, murder, armed robbery, and sexual offenses. In at least some cases there was ample evidence to support victims' claims of innocence.”
Human Rights in Saudi Arabia: A Deafening Silence. December 2001

“Concern for human rights in Saudi Arabia has ranked extremely low on the agenda of the U.S., although Washington has long been well aware that the country remains a veritable wasteland when it comes to respect for the fundamental human rights of its 22 million residents, including some six to seven million foreign workers and their families. Saudi Arabia's diversity, in terms of geographic regions and various schools of Islamic law, is not represented in the governing structure of the country.”
Recommendations to the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan. January 2002

“Human Rights Watch calls on international donors meeting in Tokyo to ensure that the promotion of human rights is given a central place in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The creation of an interim administration in Kabul, and the physical and institutional reconstruction of the country at large, offer a unique opportunity for instituting human rights protections into Afghanistan's political and societal structures.”
"Bad Dreams" Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia. July 2004

“Migrant workers in the purportedly modern society that Saudi Arabia has become continue to suffer extreme forms of labor exploitation that sometimes rise to slavery-like conditions. Their lives are further complicated by deeply rooted gender, religious, and racial discrimination. This provides the foundation for prejudicial public policy and government regulations, shameful practices of private employers, and unfair legal proceedings that yield judicial sentences of the death penalty”
The United States' "Disappeared": The CIA's Long-Term "Ghost Detainees". October 2004

“In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Bush administration has violated the most basic legal norms in its treatment of security detainees. Many have been held in offshore prisons, the most well-known of which is at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. As we now know, prisoners suspected of terrorism, and many against whom no evidence exists, have been mistreated, humiliated, and tortured. But perhaps no practice so fundamentally challenges the foundations of U.S. and international law as the long-term secret incommunicado detention of al-Qaeda suspects in “undisclosed locations.”
Human Rights Watch Memorandum to the Government of Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Priorities in the Kingdom. February 2006

“The absence of legal guarantees is one of the main causes of Saudi Arabia’s serious human rights problems. Without specific legal protections, neither the government nor judges, not to mention ordinary citizens, can know with certainty what is permissible and what is forbidden. As a result, government practices often violate basic rights, the judiciary often acts unfairly, and citizens and residents are unable to seek redress for violations they suffer.”

Swept Under the Rug: Abuses against Domestic Workers Around the World. July 2006

“This 93-page report synthesizes Human Rights Watch research since 2001 on abuses against women and child domestic workers originating from or working in El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Togo, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.”

Exported and Exposed: Abuses against Sri Lankan Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. November 2007

“The 131-page report documents the serious abuses that domestic workers face at every step of the migration process. It also shows how the Sri Lankan government and governments in the Middle East fail to protect these women. The report is based on 170 interviews with domestic workers, government officials, and labor recruiters conducted in Sri Lanka and in the Middle East.”
Adults Before Their Time: Children in Saudi Arabia’s Criminal Justice System. March 2008

“This 82-page report documents the routine arrest of children for such “offenses” as begging, running away from home, or being alone with a member of the opposite sex. Prosecutors can hold children, like adults, for up to six months before referring them to a judge. In the case of girls, authorities can detain them indefinitely, without judicial review, for what they say is “guidance.” Detention centers mix children under investigation or trial with children convicted of a crime and sometimes with adults. Judges regularly try children without the presence of lawyers or sometimes even guardians, even for crimes punishable by death, flogging, or amputation.”

Precarious Justice. Arbitrary Detention and Unfair Trials in the Deficient Criminal Justice System of Saudi Arabia. March 2008

“This 144-page report documents the arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals for vaguely defined crimes or behavior that is not inherently criminal. Once arrested, suspects often face prolonged solitary confinement, ill-treatment, forced confessions, and are denied a lawyer at crucial stages of interrogation and trial.”

Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia. April 2008

“In this 50-page report, Human Rights Watch draws on more than 100 interviews with Saudi women to document the effects of these discriminatory policies on a woman’s most basic rights.”
"As If I Am Not Human": Abuses against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia. July 2008

“This 133-page report concludes two years of research and is based on 142 interviews with domestic workers, senior government officials, and labor recruiters in Saudi Arabia and labor-sending countries. Saudi households employ an estimated 1.5 million domestic workers, primarily from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Nepal. Smaller numbers come from other countries in Africa and Asia. While no reliable statistics exist on the exact number of abuse cases, the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs and the embassies of labor-sending countries shelter thousands of domestic workers with complaints against their employers or recruiters each year.”
The Last Holdouts: Ending the Juvenile Death Penalty in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen. September 2008

“In this 20-page report, Human Rights Watch documents failures in law and practice that since January 2005 have resulted in 32 executions of juvenile offenders in five countries: Iran (26), Saudi Arabia (2), Sudan (2), Pakistan (1), and Yemen (1). The report also highlights cases of individuals recently executed or facing execution in the five countries, where well over 100 juvenile offenders are currently on death row, awaiting the outcome of a judicial appeal, or in some murder cases, the outcome of negotiations for pardons in exchange for financial compensation.”
The Ismailis of Najran: Second-class\ Saudi Citizens. September 2008

“This 90-page report, based on more than 150 interviews and reviews of official documents, documents a pattern of discrimination against the Ismailis in the areas of government employment, education, religious freedom, and the justice system.”
Human Rights and Saudi Arabia’s Counterterrorism Response: Religious Counseling, Indefinite Detention, and Flawed Trials. August 2009

“This 27-page report documents Saudi Arabia's response to threats and acts of terrorism since 2003, including the indefinite detentions of thousands of people, some of them peaceful political dissidents. The domestic intelligence agency, the mabahith, which runs its own prisons, has prevented effective judicial oversight. Saudi Arabia should ensure the right to judicial review for anyone detained, and the right to a fair trial for anyone charged with a crime, the report says.

The United States and United Kingdom closely cooperate with Saudi counterterrorism officials, publicly praising their religious reeducation program, but have not criticized either the indefinite detention of thousands of people or the flawed trials of 330 suspects in July. Several thousand of those detained under counterterrorism efforts remain in prisons throughout the country.”
Denied Dignity: Systematic Discrimination and Hostility toward Saudi Shia Citizens. September 2009

“This 32-page report documents the sharpest sectarian tensions in the kingdom in years, set off by clashes between Shia pilgrims and religious police in Medina in February 2009, followed by arbitrary arrests of Shia protesters in the Eastern Province in March. The closing of private Shia halls for communal prayer in Khobar, which began in July 2008 and the arrests of Shia religious and community leaders in Ahsa' in 2009 also have contributed to the tensions.”

Returned to Risk: Deportation of HIV-Positive Migrants. September 2009

“This 27-page report was prepared by Human Rights Watch, Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, the European AIDS Treatment Group, and the African HIV Policy Network. It describes cases in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and the United States in which HIV-positive migrants were deported, and describes the need to develop policies guaranteeing uninterrupted treatment for this population.”

Slow Reform: Protection of Migrant Domestic Workers in Asia and the Middle East. April 2010

“This 26-page report reviews conditions in eight countries with large numbers of migrant domestic workers: Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Singapore, and Malaysia. The report surveys progress in extending protection to domestic workers under labor laws, reforming immigration "sponsorship" systems that contribute to abuse, ensuring effective response by police and courts to physical and sexual violence, and allowing civil society and trade unions to organize.”
Looser Rein, Uncertain Gain: A Human Rights Assessment of Five Years of King Abdullah’s Reforms in Saudi Arabia. September 2010

“This 52-page report assesses five years of Saudi reforms under King Abdullah from a human rights perspective. It finds that reform has manifested itself chiefly in greater tolerance for diverse opinions and an expanded public role for women, but that royal initiatives have been largely symbolic, with only modest concrete gains or institutional protection for rights.”
“Steps of the Devil”: Denial of Women’s and Girls’ Rights to Sport in Saudi Arabia. February 2012

“This report documents discrimination by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education in denying girls physical education in state schools, as well as discriminatory practices by the General Presidency for Youth Welfare, a youth and sports ministry, in licensing women’s gyms and supporting only all-male sports clubs. The National Olympic Committee of Saudi Arabia also has no programs for women athletes and has not fielded women in past Olympic Games.

In its interviews with Saudi women and international sporting officials, the report found that Saudi government restrictions put athletics beyond the reach of almost all women. There is no government sports infrastructure for women, with all designated buildings, sport clubs, courses, expert trainers, and referees limited exclusively to men. The ban on women’s private, for-fee sports clubs has forced women to restrict themselves to fitness gyms that rarely feature swimming pools, a running track, or playing fields for team sports. Membership fees there are beyond the means of many ordinary Saudi women and girls. Official sporting bodies hold no competitive sports for Saudi women athletes in the kingdom and do not support Saudi sportswomen in regional or international competitions.”
World Report 2008: Saudi Arabia and other States

“In its World Report 2008, Human Rights Watch surveys the human rights situation in more than 75 countries. Human Rights Watch identified many human rights challenges in need of attention, including atrocities in Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, Iraq, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan’s Darfur region, as well as closed societies or severe repression in Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. Abuses in the “war on terror” featured in France, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others.”
World Report 2009: Saudi Arabia

“Human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia. International and domestic pressure to improve human rights practices remained feeble, and the government undertook no major reforms in 2008. The government systematically suppressed the rights of 14 million Saudi women and an estimated 2 to 3 million members of minority Shia communities, and failed to protect the rights of foreign workers. Thousands of people received unfair trials or were subject to arbitrary detention. Curbs on freedom of association, expression, and movement, as well as a lack of official accountability, remain serious concerns.

The government-approved National Society for Human Rights failed to issue its second annual report in 2008. The governmental Human Rights Commission opened a women's branch, but its board remained all-male.”
World Report 2010: Saudi Arabia

“Human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia. In February 2009 King Abdullah replaced conservatives in the religious establishment, judiciary, and education system with more progressive-minded officials, but domestic and international pressure to improve human rights practices is feeble.

Authorities continue to systematically suppress, or fail to protect, the rights of fourteen million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia. Thousands of people have received unfair trials or were subject to arbitrary detention. Curbs on freedom of association, expression, and movement, as well as a pervasive lack of official accountability, remain serious concerns. In May the government cancelled scheduled municipal elections.”
World Report 2011: Saudi Arabia

“Human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah has not fulfilled several specific reform promises; reforms to date have involved largely symbolic steps to improve the visibility of women and marginally expand freedom of expression.

Authorities continue to systematically suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia citizens. Each year thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention. Curbs on freedom of association, expression, and movement, as well as a pervasive lack of official accountability, remain serious concerns.”
World Report 2012: Saudi Arabia

“Saudi Arabia responded with unflinching repression to demands by citizens for greater democracy in the wake of the pro-democracy Arab Spring movements. King Abdullah bin Abd al-‘Aziz Al Saud announced economic benefits worth over US$130 billion, but authorities continued to jail Saudis for peaceful dissent. New laws introduced or proposed in 2011 criminalize the exercise of basic human rights such as freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls, 8 million foreign workers, and some 2 million Shia citizens. Each year thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention.

In March Saudi troops helped quell Bahrain’s pro-democracy protests. Saudi Arabia reacted with dismay to the toppling of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, but supported a transition of power, at least in public, in Yemen and Libya and urged Syria to stop internal repression. At Saudi urging, the Gulf Cooperation Council invited Arab monarchies Jordan and Morocco to join the council, and provided Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, and Yemen with substantial financial aid.”
Amnesty International Reports
Annual Report 2007

“The government continued with reform initiatives but these had little impact in improving human rights. There were new violations linked to the "war on terror" and further clashes between security forces and members of armed groups. Scores of people suspected of belonging to or supporting such armed groups were reported to have been arrested but the authorities did not divulge their identities or other information about them, and it was unclear whether any were charged and brought to trial. Peaceful critics of the government were subjected to prolonged detention without charge or trial. There were allegations of torture, and floggings continued to be imposed by the courts. Violence against women was prevalent and migrant workers suffered discrimination and abuse. At least 39 people were executed.”
Annual Report 2008

“The human rights situation remained dire although legal reforms were announced and there was continuing public debate about women’s rights. Hundreds of people suspected of terrorism were arrested and detained in virtual secrecy, and thousands of people arrested in previous years remained in prison. Those arrested included prisoners of conscience, among them peaceful advocates of political reform. Women continued to suffer severe discrimination in law and practice. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were common and prisoners were sentenced to flogging and amputation. At least 158 people were executed, including a child offender.”
Annual Report 2009

“Thousands of people continued to be detained without trial as terrorism suspects and hundreds more were arrested. In October, the government announced that more than 900 would be brought to trial. Human rights activists and peaceful critics of the government were detained or remained in prison, including prisoners of conscience. Freedom of expression, religion, association and assembly remained tightly restricted. Women continued to face severe discrimination in law and practice. Migrant workers suffered exploitation and abuse with little possibility of redress. Refugees and asylum-seekers were not adequately protected. The administration of justice remained shrouded in secrecy and was summary in nature. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were widespread and systematic, and carried out with impunity. Flogging was used widely as a main and additional punishment. The death penalty continued to be used extensively and in a discriminatory manner against migrant workers from developing countries, women and poor people. At least 102 people were executed.”
Annual Report 2012

“Planned protests inspired by events elsewhere in the region were ruthlessly suppressed and hundreds of people who protested or dared to call for reform were arrested; some were prosecuted on security-related and political charges. Thousands of people suspected of security-related offences remained in prison. The justice system and information about detainees, including prisoners of conscience, remained shrouded in secrecy, although it was clear that torture and grossly unfair trials continued. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out. Women and girls faced severe discrimination in law and practice, as well as violence; increased campaigning for women’s rights resulted in arrests as well as some small improvements. Foreign migrant workers continued to be exploited and abused by their employers, generally with impunity. At least 82 prisoners were executed, a sharp rise over the previous two years.”
FIDH’s Reports
Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia

“The FIDH and the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights wish to bring to the attention of the members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination the situation of migrants workers in Saudi Arabia, victims of discriminatory treatment and appalling working conditions.

The present report documents the various violations of the ICERD regarding those workers. It is illustrated with summaries of testimonies collected by the Egyptian Organization for human Rights, an independent human rights NGO affiliated to the FIDH.

In Saudi Arabia, migrant workers represent more than 50% of the workforce (approximately 6 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, even if the exact number is unknown, given the number of undocumented persons).

For this foreign workforce, working in Saudi Arabia represents a chance to escape from poverty, and offer a better future to their relatives.

In Saudi Arabia, as in other Gulf countries, foreign workers are employed under the sponsorship system. Workers come to Saudi Arabia through an invitation of their employers, their residency is subject to the signature of a working contract with an employer. This employer can be an enterprise, an individual or even the State, when it concerns a post in the public sector (e.g. a doctor or a nurse).

Highly criticized by international Human Rights NGO (see Amnesty international campaign on Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch annual reports, etc), this system creates a series of grave human rights violations, including violations of the ICERD.

Migrant workers are totally at the mercy of their employers who behold their passports, limit their freedom of movement. They are prevented from changing job and cannot leave the place of their work. Some do not receive their salary and are mistreated.”
Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula
Annual Report 2001

“The Arabian Peninsula has ruled since more than ten decades starting of Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud till Fahd Bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud within a hereditary monarchy.

The founder of this existence (Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud) has established a fabricated geographical state by seizing many Northern, Southern Eastern and Western regions with unlimited advocacy of British.

The sons of Abd al-Aziz have ruled one by one till Fahd Bin Abd Al-Aziz. They continued to rule by that tribal way which made the rule tyrannical. The Government prohibits the basic rights of people particularly the right of election of ruler and the participation in the government.

Undoubtedly this pattern of political administration is inconsistent with Islamic Shari`a which refuses the hereditary monarchy. Islamic Shari`a confirms the application of the consultation and election according to the international standards and the Universal Declaration of Human rights (Article 21).

In this case the Saudi regime has no legislative and lawful credibility.”
Annual Report 2006

“Abuses human rights in Hejaz are facilitated by governmental laws and regulations based on injustice and inequality that are part of a state structure lacks accountability, either by international human rights organizations or local groups, ignoring requests by such organizations to visit the country for information.

The government's human rights record remained poor and its completion in developing this record appear to be little or absent. The basic structure of human rights aspect (right to change the government) is forbidden. Moreover, the electing parliamentary representation which is the façade of legislative power doesn’t represent the actual number of the population or other monitories.”
Annual Report 2007

“There are no recognized political parties, independent bar associations or national elections.

The fundamental right to freedom of expression is explicitly denied and there is tight control and extensive censorship of the press and other mass media. Traditional democratic institutions do not exist in the country.

The regime subjects to the pressure of the conservative religious establishment, which retain predominance in governmental and judiciary affairs, has opposed the recent reforms.”
Annual Report 2008

The committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula (CDHRAP) released its Annual Report, which examines the status of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

The report seeks to examine barriers to freedoms and the free practice of religion in Saudi Arabia. It reviews the commitments of Saudi government to religious freedom.

The purpose of this report is to document the actions of Saudi regime that repress religious expression, persecute innocent believers, or tolerate violence against Shiite minority.

CDHRAP strives to report with fairness and accuracy on abuses against adherents of Shiite minority committed by the totalitarian Saudi regime which sought to control religious thought and expression and regarded Shi'a as threats.

The Saudi regime's human rights record remained poor which shows these public proclamations of support for the promotion and protection of human rights to be disingenuous.

Shi'a minority continues to subject to sectarian discrimination and they are perceived as an inferior group, this was used to justify blocking access to enjoy with international human rights standards.

The adherents of Shi'a minority subject not only to severe political repression, but also to discrimination in employment, education, and government services.

The Saudi regime from the outset marginalized Shi'a minority. Shiites remain under-represented in official positions, and students complain of open hostility from Sunni instructors. Jobs in the police and military are rare.

The Saudi regime in all continents [has] whipped up anti-Shi'a sentiment. They continue to face obstacles to the free and open observance of their faith.

As we present this Annual Report, CDHRAP wishes to express its gratitude for the support which all people have provided.”
Annual Report 2011

“The Saudi regime continuous resorting system marked by despotism and repression and committing serious abuses of human rights . It always adopts a policy of repression and violence that severely persecute its citizens or members of indigenous Muslim communities who follow other schools of thought, especially Shi’a Muslims and Ismailis on the basis of religious belief. It also exploits religion in the service of an ideology of intolerance and hate against them.”



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