Draft Anti-Terrorism Law Endangers Freedom of Expression and Association in Saudi Arabia | Freedom House

Draft Anti-Terrorism Law Endangers Freedom of Expression and Association in Saudi Arabia

According to Amnesty International, a leaked version of a new draft anti-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia would give wide-ranging powers to the Minister of the Interior, allowing him to subvert due process in the name of national security without judicial oversight, further endangering freedom of expression and association in that country. Under the draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism, criminal actions that can be labeled terrorist acts are defined in overly broad terms that could potentially be used to deter peaceful protest as well as restrict dissenting opinions and target political opposition.  The legislation is currently has been reviewed by a government security committee and it is unknown if and when it might pass.

The draft law would criminalize such actions as “endangering…national unity” and “harming the reputation of the state or its position.”  Suspects can be detained without charge for up to 120 days, or longer if authorized by a specialized court. Citizens charged under the law would face harsh punishment,potentially including the death penalty for armed attacks against the state or terrorist crimes that result in death.  As Amnesty notes, detention without due process increases the likelihood of torture or other ill-treatment of prisoners and is in violation of Saudi Arabia’s international obligations on the treatment of prisoners.

Freedom House strongly condemns the  legislation in its current form and urges the Saudi government to revise the proposed law to ensure the protection freedom of expression and association for its citizens.
 
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