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News code: 29002
Published Date: Sunday 9 February 2020 - 12:12:51
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Saudi Specialized Criminal Court a political tool to muzzle critical voices: Amnesty

Saudi Specialized Criminal Court a political tool to muzzle critical voices: Amnesty
World  - A new report published by Amnesty International today exposes how despite all their rhetoric of reforms, the Saudi authorities are using the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) as a weapon to systematically silence dissent. Alongside the report, the organization is also launching a campaign calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders detained for their peaceful expression.

In the report titled "Muzzling critical voices: Politicized trials before Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court" the organization documents the chilling impact of the SCC's prosecutions of human rights defenders, writers, economists, journalists, religious clerics, reformists and political activists, including of Saudi Arabia's Shi'a Muslim minority who have suffered grossly unfair trials before the SCC and received harsh sentences, including the death penalty, under vague counter-terror and anti-cybercrime laws.

Extensive examination of court documents, government statements and national legislation, as well as interviews with activists, lawyers and individuals close to the cases documented were included in the report.

Amnesty International wrote to the Saudi authorities on 12 December 2019 and received one response from the official Human Rights Commission summarizing relevant laws and procedures but failing to directly address the cases raised in the report.

"The Saudi Arabian government exploits the SCC to create a false aura of legality around its abuse of the counter-terror law to silence its critics. Every stage of the SCC's judicial process is tainted with human rights abuses, from the denial of access to a lawyer, to incommunicado detention, to convictions based solely on so-called ‘confessions' extracted through torture," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Regional Director.

"Our research gives lie to the shiny new reformist image Saudi Arabia is trying to cultivate, exposing how the government uses a court like the SCC in the ruthless suppression of those who are courageous enough to voice opposition, defend human rights or call for meaningful reforms."
The government's rhetoric about reforms, which increased after the appointment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, stands in stark contrast to the reality of the human rights situation in the country. At the same time as they brought in a set of positive women's rights reforms, the authorities unleashed an intense crackdown on some of the highest profile women human rights defenders who had for years fought for those reforms as well as other citizens promoting change.

The SCC was established in October 2008 to try individuals accused of terror-related crimes. Since 2011, it has been systematically used to prosecute individuals on vague charges which often equate peaceful political activities with terrorism-related crimes. The counter-terror law, which has overly broad and vague definitions of "terrorism" and of a "terrorist crime", contains provisions which criminalize peaceful expression of views.

 

News Code: 29002
Published Date: Sunday 9 February 2020 - 12:12:51
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