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Saudis against own human rights community: HRW activist

6 February 2016 14:21



A Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher says Saudi Arabia is at war with rights activists, blasting the West for remaining “notoriously” tight-lipped over Riyadh’s abuses.

The Saudi regime has imprisoned “practically their entire human rights community. There is almost no one left who is not in jail,” Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with the HRW told Deutsche Welle in an interview.

He said almost all independent rights activists are serving long-term sentences behind bars in the kingdom.

“It has been terrible for about four or five years now. Ever since the Arab uprisings in 2011, the Saudi authorities have clamped down on all dissents,” he said.

The researcher also criticized unfair trials under Saudi Arabia’s flawed judicial system.

“Saudi justice is arbitrary. The country has no written penal code. Generally, there is no written law,” he said, citing “breaking allegiance to the ruler” as a common charge against political dissidents and activists.

“If you are accused of criticizing Saudi authorities and facing a jail sentence based on that, there is no way to defend yourself,” he said.

“In Saudi court trials you never get an analysis of whether what the person said was actually a crime, because by definition it shouldn’t be a crime.

“The only thing you can argue is whether or not you made the statement you are accused of making,” Google said.

The kingdom sent shockwaves throughout the world by the January 2 execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was a vocal critic of Riyadh’s policies.

He was convicted to death for making anti-government speeches and defending political prisoners.

In in a recent interview with the CNN, his son Mohammed al-Nimr said the cleric was killed merely because he spoke against Al Saud’s tyranny.

“He was steadfast that he would not change his statements; he would not acquiesce to them even at the threat of death,” he said.

Coogle likewise said, “In terms of basic rights, such as free expression, free association, free assembly and freedom of religion, it could not be worse.” “The situation is absolutely dismal.”

West mum

The researcher further slammed the West for letting Riyadh get away scot-free with its rights violations, saying “Western countries have always been notoriously silent on Saudi human rights abuses.”

“Westerners have always been scared of offending the Saudis. The truth of the matter is: No country has leverage over Saudi Arabia,” he went on to say.

He touched on the German opposition’s criticism of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for traveling to Saudi Arabia only a few weeks after the execution of Sheikh Nimr.

“That kind of criticism is new. If he had gone five years ago nobody would have said anything. At least in Europe things are actually becoming more contentious,” he said.

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