ADHRB Publishes Report on Saudi Arabia’s Judiciary

10 March 2015 – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain is pleased to announce the publishing of a new report entitled The Pretense of Progress–a shadow report on the implementation of Saudi Arabia’s recommendations from the Special Rapporteur on the Judges and lawyersThe report is available for download here. The foreword of the report is available below.

In 2002, Saudi Arabia invited international human rights law experts acting with the authority of the United Nations Human Rights Council to travel to Saudi Arabia to assess the human rights situation in the Kingdom. Their mission ignited the interest of the international community, as Saudi Arabia had long-since developed a belligerent reputation towards human rights. The expert, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, arrived in a country that came in nearly last in most metrics for their respective fields. The expert conducted his assessments quietly, uncovering a vast array of problems and later producing recommendations for actions that the government might undertake in order to start fixing its human rights situation.

In the time since the expert conducted his assessments and issued his reports and recommendations, the government has made little progress in their implementation. While the government has made strides in reforming its criminal justice system, the new Anti-Terror Law has created an entirely separate and extremely arbitrary code of criminal procedure for those prosecuted under a vague definition of terrorism inclusive of vocal dissent against the government. Saudi prisons still torture suspects as a matter of course, and security officers and officials are not held accountable for their human rights transgressions. Saudi Arabia has not made significant movement towards establishing a system or jurisprudence or precedence, and Saudi judges still maintain wide authority in interpreting the most basic of Saudi laws. In many ways, Saudi Arabia has remained static or even taken backwards steps since the Rapporteur issued his report.

Very little has been done to hold the Government of Saudi Arabia accountable for implementation of human rights reform. The international community has largely stood back and watched as events unfold, sometimes vocally criticizing but more often sitting on their hands as the government increases execution rates and considers executing human rights defenders. With this report, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) hope to jump-start that conversation by providing a comprehensive evaluation of Saudi Arabia’s implementation of the recommendations of the Rapporteur. Largely, we find the government’s efforts inadequate.

The international community can no longer afford to stand idly by as its recommendations are continuously ignored. As the government opened itself to the critique of the Special Procedures, the government must also be held accountable for implementing their recommendations. This report provides the first step in creating such accountability by thoroughly analyzing Saudi implementation of every individual recommendation made by the Rapporteurs. It falls on the international community to continue the process by holding the government to its commitments under international human rights law, its international human rights obligations, and the recommendations of the Special Procedures.