Tag Archive | "human rights"

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Frustrations with GCC Trade Negotiations

Posted on 13 May 2011 by hashimilion

C O N F I D E N T I A L RIYADH 000935

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP (HARRIS)
DEPT PASS USTR FOR JASON BUNTIN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2010
TAGS: ETRD ECIN PREL GCC SA AS NZ JA
SUBJECT: GCC TRADE NEGOTIATIONS DOWN UNDER: STICKING POINTS
AND FRUSTRATION WITH THE GCC

Classified By: DCM David Rundell reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) At a diplomatic roundtable on free trade agreement
(FTA) negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),
the Australian and New Zealand DCMs expressed fatigue and
frustration with their respective experiences. The New
Zealand DCM said his government is prepared to pull out after
the next round if the two sides cannot make significant
progress. Both said their governments are frustrated with
the GCC as a negotiating partner, and both agreed the GCC
consultations between negotiating sessions has proved to be a
major barrier to progress. End summary.

STICKING POINTS AND FRUSTRATION WITH THE GCC
——————————————–

¶2. (C) According to Australian DCM Roy Clogstoun, his
country’s trade agreement negotiations with the GCC are hung
up on the issue of the GCC’s current five percent tariff on
automobile imports (which Australia would like to eliminate)
and unresolved issues with the services and investment
sections of the agreement. While the current tariff is
relatively low, Australians fear another country (i.e. Japan)
could gain an advantage by negotiating a lower tariff
subsequently. New Zealand’s negotiations are stuck on the
issue of dairy products, though New Zealand DCM Peter Noble
also noted the services and investment portions of their
agreement were sub-optimal (Note: Reportedly, dairy and
sheep products account for 80 percent of New Zealand’s
exports to the GCC.). He described the dispute mechanism and
arbitration sections of the agreement as “acceptable,” but he
said his country was preparing to abandon the process after
the next round in October if negotiators did not make
substantial progress towards reaching an agreement by then.

¶3. (C) Both DCMs expressed frustration with the GCC, going so
far as to question the GCC’s motivation for negotiating the
agreements. Noble implied the Saudis may be using the
negotiations as a training exercise for future agreements
with larger trading partners, noting the Chinese had openly
done so with his country in bilateral trade negotiations.
Both emphasized repeatedly that the GCC’s lack of interim
consultations between member states seriously hampered
progress that otherwise might be easy to achieve. “They
don’t talk to each other between rounds of meetings,” one
said, “they just return to their capitals until the next
round.” The two DCMs asserted that Saudi Arabia controls the
GCC in negotiations and has used smaller GCC members as pawns
in the process — convincing other individual members to
pretend to be the lone holdout opposing a proposal, when in
fact all six member governments actually were in opposition.
Our contacts have said the members tend to act in concert to
distract attention from controversial issues like the human
rights records of individual GCC countries.

¶4. (C) Japanese DCM Fumio Iwai told Econoff in a separate
meeting that the GCC postponed the July round of its free
trade negotiations with Japan. “We are in the same boat as
the Australians,” he said, in that the sticking point in
their negotiations is the five percent auto tariff. Iwai
said the Saudis had the strongest opposition to lowering the
tariff, and he noted that the issue had been raised at the
highest bilateral levels.

COMMENT
——-

¶5. (C) Given GCC officials previously have told us they also
are in FTA negotiations with China, Japan, and Turkey, it
seems likely the New Zealand DCM’s fears that the GCC is
using its separate negotiations with Australia and New
Zealand as a training round may be well-founded.
Nevertheless, that does not mean the GCC wants them to fail.
The failure of EU – GCC negotiations in late 2008
demonstrated an inflexibility which also seems underway here.
One bright spot: both DCMs noted the successful conclusion
of U.S. FTAs with Bahrain and Oman had positively influenced
the negotiating atmosphere.
ERDMAN

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Bin Laden’s Ghost

Posted on 09 May 2011 by hashimilion

Osama bin Laden’s death in his Pakistani hiding place is like the removal of a tumor from the Muslim world. But aggressive follow-up therapy will be required to prevent the remaining Al Qaeda cells from metastasizing by acquiring more adherents who believe in violence to achieve the ‘purification’ and empowerment of Islam.

Fortunately, Bin Laden’s death comes at the very moment when much of the Islamic world is being convulsed by the treatment that Bin Laden’s brand of fanaticism requires: the Arab Spring, with its demands for democratic empowerment (and the absence of demands, at least so far, for the type of Islamic rule that Al Qaeda sought to impose).

But can the nascent democracies being built in Egypt and Tunisia, and sought in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere, see off the threats posed by Islamic extremists? In particular, can it defeat the Salafi/Wahhabi thought that has long nurtured Osama bin Laden and his ilk, and which remains the professed and protected ideology of Saudi Arabia?

The fact is that before the US operation to kill Bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s symbolic head, the emerging democratic Arab revolutions had already, in just a few short months, done as much to marginalize and weaken his terrorist movement in the Islamic world as the war on terror had achieved in a decade. Those revolutions, whatever their ultimate outcome, have exposed the philosophy and behavior of Bin Laden and his followers as not only illegitimate and inhumane, but actually inept at achieving better conditions for ordinary Muslims.

What millions of Arabs were saying as they stood united in peaceful protest was that their way of achieving Arab and Islamic dignity is far less costly in human terms. More importantly, their way will ultimately achieve the type of dignity that people really want, as opposed to the unending wars of terror to rebuild the caliphate that Bin Laden promised.

After all, the protesters of the Arab Spring did not need to use – and abuse – Islam to achieve their ends. They did not wait for God to change their condition, but took the initiative by peacefully confronting their oppressors. The Arab revolutions mark the emergence of a pluralist, post-Islamist banner for the faithful. Indeed, the only people to introduce religion into the protests have been rulers, such as those in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, who have tried to use fear of the Shia or Sunni “other” to continue to divide and misrule their societies.

Now that the US has eradicated Bin Laden’s physical presence, it needs to stop delaying the rest of the therapeutic process. For the US has been selectively – and short-sightedly – irradiating only parts of the cancer that Al Qaeda represents, while leaving the malignant growth of Saudi Wahabism and Salafism untouched. Indeed, despite the decade of the West’s war on terror, and Saudi Arabia’s longer-term alliance with the US, the Kingdom’s Wahhabi religious establishment has continued to bankroll Islamic extremist ideologies around the world.

Bin Laden, born, raised, and educated in Saudi Arabia, is a product of this pervasive ideology. He was no religious innovator; he was a product of Wahhabism, and later was exported by the Wahhabi regime as a jihadist.

During the 1980’s, Saudi Arabia spent $75 billion for the propagation of Wahhabism, funding schools, mosques, and charities throughout the Islamic world, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria, and beyond. The Saudis continued such programs after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and even after they discovered that “the Call” is uncontrollable, owing to the technologies of globalization. Not surprisingly, the creation of a transnational Islamic political movement, boosted by thousands of underground jihadi Web sites, has blown back into the Kingdom.

Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi/Wahhabi ideological exports (15 of the 19 men who carried out those terror attacks were chosen by Bin Laden because they shared the same Saudi descent and education as he), Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact.

So the real battle has not been with Bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory. Bin Laden merely reflected the entrenched violence of the Kingdom’s official ideology.

Bin Laden’s eradication may strip some dictators, from Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi to Yemen’s Ali Abdallah Saleh, of the main justification they have used for their decades of repression. But the US knows perfectly well that Al Qaeda is an enemy of convenience for Saleh and other American allies in the region, and that in many cases, terrorism has been used as a pretext to repress reform. Indeed, now the US is encouraging repression of the Arab Spring in Yemen and Bahrain, where official security forces routinely kill peaceful protesters calling for democracy and human rights.

Al Qaeda and democracy cannot coexist. Indeed, Bin Laden’s death should open the international community’s eyes to the source of his movement: repressive Arab regimes and their extremist ideologies. Otherwise, his example will continue to haunt the world.

Leaked Picture of Bin Laden

By Mai Yamani

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Sword of Justice? Beheadings Rise in Saudi Arabia

Posted on 05 May 2011 by hashimilion

On November 25, 2007, a Saudi man was beheaded by sword for committing homicide. His execution brought the country’s official number of beheadings to 151. This number was a new record, standing in stark contrast to the 2006 total of 38 and far exceeding the previous record of 113 beheadings in 2000. Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery, and drug trafficking are among the many crimes punishable by beheading in the oil-rich kingdom. Saudis point out that theirs is far from being the only country that maintains capital punishment. Yet, while it would be hypocritical as well as unreasonable to demand the kingdom to eliminate executions altogether, public beheadings are nonetheless cruel and unusual on a global scale. The discussion on this matter has shifted toward one on human rights–namely the right to die with dignity.

One of the primary reasons for the recent increase may lie in the psychological implications of beheadings. Some human rights experts argue that the kingdom’s powerful official clerics fear that they are losing their influence over the Saudi population. In order to achieve the fullest impact on the general populace, beheadings are often performed outside mosques in major cities after prayer services on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Much like the French use of the guillotine in the eighteenth century, a desensitized Saudi citizenry may have grown accustomed to and even expect beheadings. Repeated exposure to public beheadings has decreased their shock value and increased the public’s overall tolerance to them.

Social conditions also render the country particularly vulnerable to abrupt increases in fervor. Justification for capital punishment derives from the country’s conservative Wahhabi interpretation of Shariah, the set of Islamic religious laws. Yet these interpretations are by no means universally accepted in the Muslim world. Many clerics and scholars insist that the Quran makes no mention of the practice whatsoever. Of the roughly 57 Muslim-majority countries worldwide, only in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, and Qatar do national laws permit beheading. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is the only country that actually continues to behead its offenders, although both Iran and Saudi Arabia uphold the tradition of stoning adulterers to death.

Even with religious rationalization, significant ambiguity still surrounds the legal precedent for these execution practices. Although many of those beheaded are tried and convicted first, evidence suggests that many are neither explained their rights nor provided legal counsel. Most notable among this latter group are foreigners, typically migrant workers from South Asia, Africa, and the poorer areas of the Arab world. In November 2007 alone, those beheaded included citizens of Bangladesh, Yemen, Pakistan, and Ghana.

The imminent beheading of a 19 year-old Sri Lankan girl, Rizana Nafeek, received considerable international attention in 2007. Nafeek had left Sri Lanka to work as a maid in Saudi Arabia and was accused of murdering her employer’s infant child. She was tried without an attorney, apparently confessing to strangling the child under duress. Eventually, as the result of the efforts of international advocacy groups’ efforts, Nafeek received a lawyer in May, and the Sri Lankan foreign ministry attempted to intervene on her behalf. As of December 8, 2007, the country’s Appellate Court began hearing her case. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, Saudi police allegedly tortured a confession out of Nafeek, an accusation the Saudi judicial system has been forced to take seriously in light of international attention.

Despite this recent development, few outside Sri Lanka have maintained interest in the woman’s fate, and international attention to the case has waned. This is peculiarly indicative of Saudi beheadings as a whole. Since August 2007, there have been dozens of beheadings reported, but none have drawn any particular international outcry. The level of domestic criticism for beheadings, though not entirely negligible, is hard to assess given the kingdom’s tight control on media censorship. And while external human rights advocacy groups continue to demand an end to the practice, no one is encouraging Saudi Arabia to adopt a more structured, pragmatic approach–e.g., exercising greater discretion in choosing those to execute publicly or, better yet, transitioning toward a system of predominantly private, discreet capital punishment. With no end to beheadings in sight and with Saudi accusations of foreign critics’ moral relativism, promoting moderation is the only chance the international community has at swaying Saudi Arabia diplomatically.

By Jon Weinberg

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A Modernization Paradox: Saudi Arabia’s Divided Society

Posted on 04 May 2011 by hashimilion

There is something profoundly paradoxical about the new Al Faisaliah shopping center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A sprawling, three-story compound complete with air-conditioning and wireless internet, the bustling shopping mall is chock full of US fast-food chains and swanky clothing shops boasting everything from bras to basketball shoes. And yet, these hallmarks of economic modernity and Western-style mass consumerism are strikingly juxtaposed with the rigidly imposed cultural mores that have changed only marginally since the days when Riyadh was little more than a collection of dirt streets and mud houses.


Indeed, government enforcement of social mores has set Saudi Arabia apart as one the world’s strictest and most traditional societies. The women roam from shop to shop clothed in full black abayas–garments that cover the entire body in order to disguise a woman’s form–and scan shelves of children’s clothes from behind face-covering niqabs. In the neighboring restaurants, unmarried men and women are not allowed to interact, and couples who choose to eat out are segregated by portable partitions. Women wishing to shop in the center or dine in these restaurants must rely on their male relatives to drive them, and they are not allowed to vote for the council members that advise the government on the development and establishment of these modern institutions. The enforcement of these and other rules, which generally mandate the segregation of men and women in all public arenas, falls under the responsibility of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, a government agency whose “morals police” monitors public areas to ensure that the rules are upheld to the highest standards of Islamic decency.

A Society of Paradoxes

This tension between modernity and tradition in Saudi Arabia is perhaps most palpable with regard to these laws toward women, but it is a paradox that has also manifested itself in virtually every branch of Saudi society. As Saudi Arabia develops, it has witnessed an ever-increasing number of contradictions between its modern economic institutions and rigid political and social systems. In a country whose economy is considerably dependent on the presence of foreign laborers, not to mention the innumerable Western professionals that contribute to the oil sector, there is still no freedom to worship any religion but Islam. Despite being one of the newest official voting members of the WTO, Saudi Arabia has still never had a national election–making it one of the world’s ten least democratic states, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2007 Democracy Index. Part of a multi-decade effort to strengthen the private sector, the country now has the strongest stock market in the region, but the kingdom’s would-be entrepreneurs are graduating from universities that are ranked among the lowest in the world. Barriers to foreign direct investment, which until recently had been insurmountably high, have been significantly lowered, and yet the state still refuses to grant tourist visas to Westerners, opening its borders only to Muslims that travel to Mecca on the Hajj.

The reality today is that Saudi Arabia is being pulled in two different directions. What is significant about this struggle, however, is the degree to which modernization has failed to permeate Saudi society beyond the economic sphere. Indeed, conventional wisdom among Western governments and institutions holds that economic prosperity will inevitably set developing nations on a road away from backwards political systems and toward pluralism, democracy, and liberalism. The Western view holds that with the development of a thriving middle class comes internal pressure to reform, and when this pressure becomes strong enough, incumbent regimes have no choice but to bow to the wishes of their people and liberalize their socio-political structures. Such beliefs have been the basis of much Western activity abroad in the last 50 years, with great hope being placed in institutions like the IMF and World Bank to bring about economic stability and eventual democratization movements. The theory has held up relatively well in certain regions of the world, but the trend in Saudi Arabia has established a new paradigm–defying certain beliefs about a direct connection between economic and political liberalization. Indeed, the pattern of change over the years in Saudi Arabia has demonstrated that more economic success can breed greater political oppression, for it is only in times of financial hardship that the country has achieved even marginal changes. As a result, political modernization in Saudi Arabia has not kept pace with economic liberalization. Today the kingdom stands at the forefront of developing nations in terms of wealth and infrastructure, but close to last with regard to political openness.

In 50 Years, from Rags to Riches

When King Abdul Aziz signed the treaty with the British government in 1932 that established the Saudi state, he inherited a fractured and backwards country that had next to no unified economy or infrastructure. For six years Saudi Arabia’s economy limped along, when in 1938, a team of US geologists stumbled across what would later be deemed the world’s greatest supply of natural oil, launching Saudi Arabia on a 50-year ascent to economic prosperity and material wealth. By the 1970s, the Saudi government, which receives almost 75 percent of its budgetary inflows from oil exports and controls 95 percent of all domestic oil production, was beginning to accrue vast revenues from Saudi oil exports. A confluence of factors in the mid-1970s led to this sudden economic acceleration, the greatest of which was an exponential growth in world oil prices (from $0.22 per barrel in 1948 to over $10 per barrel in 1974) caused by the 1973 Arab oil embargo. The government used this sudden surplus in oil revenue to launch a series of five-year development projects that would completely transform the kingdom into a thriving, modern society.

Even when world oil prices decreased sharply in the 1980s, the government under King Fahd continued to invest heavily in development and modernization, running significant budget deficits to pay for its projects. When the King died in August 2005, his obituary in the London Daily Telegraph referred to him as the “mastermind behind the modernization of his desert kingdom,” and indeed during his tenure as Crown Prince and then as King, he successfully spearheaded a series of structural developments that brought Saudi Arabia into the modern age.

Since the 1990s, similar modernization programs have continued, as Saudi Arabia has redirected revenues from oil exports toward infrastructure development, privatization, and economic diversification. Recently, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, launched the construction of a US$6.7 billion financial district in Riyadh and partially privatized the Saudi stock exchange in the hopes of making Saudi Arabia the top financial center in the Middle East. The country joined the WTO in 2005, after the signing of the US-Saudi Trade Investment Framework Agreement, which forced it to dismantle many preexisting trade barriers. The regime has also begun to dismantle previously insurmountable barriers to foreign direct investment, which it hopes will further its goals of diversifying its private sector and becoming a leading financial player in the region.

Of course Saudi Arabia’s economy is still far from perfect. But in the last half-century the remarkable nature of the country’s economic transformation cannot be disputed. Funded almost completely by oil revenues, Saudi Arabia has gone from a country of fractured tribes living in sand-swept villages, to a thriving, industrial nation dotted with skyscrapers, superhighways, airports, and factories.

Setting a New Paradigm: Resisting Reform

And yet, despite the economic similarities between Saudi Arabia and the developed states of the West, the US House of Representative still voted on June 22 to withhold the minimal amount of foreign aid that the United States regularly grants to the kingdom, citing among its reasons Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights records and its lack of progress in liberalizing its political system. It was a tangible sign that, despite claims over the last two years that Saudi society is “changing,” the country still has a long way to go before its social, legal, and political structures begin to resemble the modern character of its economy.

Although much has changed in Saudi Arabia since the country’s founding in 1932, the Saudi government has remained remarkably consistent with regard to its policymaking vision. It seeks to improve the economic welfare of the country’s citizens while also enforcing (sometimes ruthlessly) the country’s customs and traditions. The first half of this policy has been rigorously pursued through the reforms described above, but the latter half has manifested itself in repressive laws and a closed political system that are always justified on the basis of protecting Saudi Arabia’s Islamic heritage.

But this still does not explain why Saudi Arabia has bucked the prevailing consensus on the integral link between political and economic reforms. It does not explain the paradox of why, as Saudi Arabia’s populace has become richer, better educated, and more diversely opinionated, there has been almost no internal pressure for political liberalization. But, in the end, almost every trend in Saudi society can be explained by the single most important factor that has shaped the Saudi state–oil. And the complacency of the new Saudi middle class is ultimately no exception. The government, through its pet company Saudi Aramco, controls virtually all oil extraction and refining in the country and maintains its profligate social and economic spending through revenues from this oil production. The result is an economic welfare state of the most bizarre type, so bizarre that it has been given its own name by experts in the region–a rentier state. In such a state, rather than imposing taxes on its populace to raise the necessary cash for public projects, the government relies on a system of continuous revenues to fund not only economic development projects, but also a unique “welfare” program that tends to manifest itself in the form of simple public handouts. As long as the government can maintain these handouts, most citizens simply ask no questions–with no taxation, they demand no representation.

This system has been the primary factor behind the Saudi regime’s ability to maintain the same closed structure and enforce the same oppressive laws since its inception, guaranteeing the Al Saud family almost full carte blanche as they shape the country’s future and insulating them against the ramifications of poor or careless economic decisions. The resulting paradox is that as Saudi Arabia gets richer, its rulers find it easier to guarantee absolute rule. Prosperity in this case does not breed democratic change, but rather pushes Saudi society in precisely the opposite direction.

This unique phenomenon is perhaps best observed during the times that the Saudi economy has faltered. In the 1980s, when Saudi Arabia experienced its first major economic slowdown, public clamoring for political change garnered a promise from King Fahd to establish a consultative assembly (Majlis Al Shura) that would act as an advisory body to the Al Saud government. The promise turned out to be little more than hot air, however, with Fahd preferring to handle political dissidents with swift, repressive, and often violent justice. Indeed it was not until the years directly following the Gulf War, when international oil prices collapsed and public spending was cut, that middle-class technocrats and young Islamic fundamentalists generated enough public opposition to pressure the Fahd regime to honor its promise and establish the Majlis Al Shura–with all delegates appointed by the government. Then in the late 1990s, shrunken oil earnings again motivated the Saudi populace to speak out. These calls for change coincided with increasing pressure from the West for Saudi Arabia to reform its repressive political structure, and culminated in the kingdom’s first elections in 42 years. In 2005 Saudi men (women were excluded) were allowed for the first time to vote for half of the members of their local town councils (which have only an advisory role in government planning)–the other half of the members were, of course, appointed by King Abdullah. Despite the fact that only 25 percent of eligible voters participated (part of that Saudi apathy that has been instilled by 30 years of government handouts), these elections were hailed around the world as a major first step away from authoritarianism and were construed as a sign that, finally, Saudi Arabia was making efforts to reform.

Four consecutive years of sky-high oil prices and unprecedented economic growth have demonstrated the opposite. Indeed, far from motivating further reform of the authoritarian bureaucracy, these revenues have allowed King Abdullah to consolidate his already tight grip on power. The “democratically elected” town councils have proven to be even more ineffective and powerless than predicted. A law enacted in 2005 prohibits any employees of the government (government workers comprise two-thirds of the native workforce) from speaking out publicly against the regime’s policies. The signatories of a 2004 petition advocating the transformation to a constitutional monarchy have been forbidden to travel, and the authors of a more recent petition advocating reform have been arrested on trumped-up charges of terrorism. Despite a slew of promises from the regime in 2005, there have been no discussions as of yet regarding the establishment of further elections, even for the toothless town councils. Maybe if oil prices suddenly fall again (which looks unlikely) there will be another round of internal pressures and, perhaps, another election, but current trends indicate that the Saudi regime is perfectly content to continue as it always has–developing its economy with all the latest in modern technology and structural reforms, while keeping a tight grip on political power.

Bridging the Gap: Options for the Future

The paradoxical combination of Saudi economic modernization and deficient socio-political reforms proves that the West cannot sit back and hope that further increases in Saudi prosperity will boost the strength and numbers of the Saudi middle class, resulting in internal pressures for the reform of the oppressive political system and its equally ruthless legal code. Nor, for that matter, can the world’s democracies rely on random economic slow-downs and unpredictable decreases in oil prices to be the impetus for reforms. Of course the Saudi economy cannot grow forever and there will inevitably be future recessions, but to expect that such downturns will be the transformative force in Saudi political society is both naive and irresponsible.

If the West is serious about pushing for democratization in the region, it must develop a more comprehensive and effective strategy than the passive waiting game that has been the policy until now. Unfortunately, there appears to be no way to combat the social welfare policies of the Saudi government that have been so successful in establishing the deep sense of complacency among the Saudi people. However, the last decade has demonstrated that opposition to the regime does exist–and the government has had to rely more frequently on direct methods of repression and political silencing to combat internal opposition to its policies. If these voices are allowed to speak out and maintain pressure on the Al Saud government, then there is a chance that Saudi Arabia’s future may be far more democratic than its past. As the 2005 elections demonstrated, the Saudi regime will bend under pressure–especially when that pressure comes both from within the state and from the international community.

Saudi Arabia’s Western allies, upon whom the kingdom depends for diplomatic, political, military, and even economic support, have the ability to push the Saudi regime toward real political and social reforms. Further, if such pressure can be sustained, with strong internal calls for reform being consistently matched by equally condemnatory external criticism, then the Saudi regime may have no choice but to take further steps toward liberalizing its political structure and amending its draconian legal measures. Indeed this may be the only way by which the Saudi government can be forced to bridge the ever-increasing gap between its modernized economy and its repressive socio-political institutions.

By Killian Clarke

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Pakistanis Urge Saudi Arabia To Release Murder Suspects

Posted on 15 April 2011 by hashimilion

Legislators in northwestern Pakistan have demanded Saudi Arabia release three Pakistani citizens who have been kept in Saudi jails for 13 years, RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal reports.

The issue of jailed Pakistanis was raised in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial assembly on April 13 after several of the relatives of those jailed in Saudi Arabia held a demonstration in Peshawar on April 11.

Relatives of the jailed Pakistanis said they were arrested on murder charges but, although not convicted, have still paid “blood money” to the victims’ relatives in an effort to be released. They said that under Saudi law they are supposed to be freed after paying the relatives.

Addressing an assembly session, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the Pakistanis “were arrested on charges of [murder]…but the Saudi authorities have failed to prove the charges. [The investigators] extracted their fingernails and hair, and kept them in solitary confinement, but could not prove the charges [against them].”

Hussain told RFE/RL that the harsh investigation practices used by the Saudis are a gross violation of human rights and he demanded the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia ensure justice to the three Pakistanis.

Hussain said in parliament that “we request the Pakistani government discuss the issue with the Saudis. And we request that the Saudi authorities — in the name of humanity — release the three men on the basis of Islamic laws and human rights.”

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Saudi Arabia Sees Fresh Protests

Posted on 11 April 2011 by hashimilion

Protesters staged fresh demonstrations in Saudi Arabia on Friday, calling on the government to release Shiite prisoners and grant more rights, human rights activists said.

The protests, which were peaceful, also called for the withdrawal of regional forces from neighboring Bahrain, according to the activists, who requested their names not be used because they had concerns for their safety.

All the protesters were Shiite. The protests took place in the city of Qatif and the village of Awamiyya, both in the country’s Eastern Province, and each the scene of similar protests in March.

In Qatif, about 200 people marched through the streets, chanting for the release of the prisoners, the activists said. Some carried Bahraini flags in a 90-minute march that some said was in solidarity with Bahrainis.

In Awamiyya, more than 150 Shiite men and women marched for the release of prisoners and for the withdrawal of Gulf Cooperation Council forces from Bahrain. As in Qatif, some protesters carried Bahraini flags.

Several members of the council have sent troops to Bahrain to help Manama quell anti-government protests.

The protesters in Awamiyya also called for human rights in a march that lasted just over an hour.

In both places, security forces were present but didn’t interfere, the activists said.

CNN was unable to reach the Saudi Interior Ministry for comment.

The issue of Shiite prisoners and a demand for more rights have been the focus of similar protests in Saudi Arabia in the past two months, although fewer demonstrations have taken place in recent weeks.

Others have demonstrated for the creation of a constitutional monarchy and other reforms.

 

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Indonesia Petitions Saudi Arabia to spare maid

Posted on 04 March 2011 by hashimilion

Indonesia said on Wednesday it had appealed to Saudi Arabia to commute the beheading of a maid convicted of killing her employer in what she called an act of self-defence.

A court in the Saudi capital of Riyadh sentenced the maid, Darsem, to death for murdering her Yemeni employer in December 2007, foreign ministry spokeswoman Kusuma Habir told AFP.

‘We’ve lodged an appeal against the sentence to the court there through our embassy in Riyadh and Darsem’s lawyer. We hope she could be freed or at least get a lower sentence,’ she said.

‘Darsem said she acted in self-defence as the employer had tried to rape her.’ Indonesia is also raising compensation or ‘diyat’ of two million riyals (S$673,000) for the employer’s family, she said.

‘Darsem could escape the sentence if she receives a pardon from the family.

The family forgave her in January on the condition that she pays the compensation,’ Mr Habir said. — AFP

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