Al-Aiban: No secret prisons in Kingdom; freedom of expression guaranteed


Saudi Gazette report

GENEVA — Human Rights Commission (HRC) President Bandar Bin Muhammad Al-Aiban reiterated on Thursday Saudi Arabia’s determination to continue efforts in protecting and promoting human rights. “Under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, the Kingdom pursues efforts to achieve sustainable development in line with a balanced path between achieving the best systems and practices in the field of human rights, the right to development and the preservation of the values of the Saudi society.

Addressing the session for the adoption of the additional report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Kingdom within the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Al-Aiban emphasized that there are no secret prisons and detention centers in the Kingdom, and that secret detention is prohibited under the Kingdom’s regulations. “The Public Prosecution, the Human Rights Commission, the National Society for Human Rights and other relevant authorities monitor prisons and detention centers,” he said while referring to the Kingdom’s implementation of the HRC recommendations concerning fair trial and criminal justice.

Al-Aiban said that the Kingdom received 258 recommendations at the 31st session of the UPR Working Group held in November 2018. A Saudi committee composed of concerned governmental bodies, the Human Rights Commission, and a number of civil society institutions studied it. The study found that 182 recommendations were fully supported and 31 partially endorsed by the Kingdom.

Al-Aiban also rejected the internationalization of the Jamal Khashoggi case. “With regard to the recommendations made by a number of countries on the issue of Jamal Khashoggi, the Kingdom dealt with them positively with being fully convinced with the enormity and horror of this unfortunate and painful incident, and the integrity of the measures to be taken on this issue. The actions taken by the Kingdom on this issue are based on constitutional and sound legal principles.

He clarified that Saudi Arabia supported most of these recommendations with the exception of two of them. “The rejection of these two is based on the fact that they were detrimental to the sovereignty of the Kingdom and interference in their internal affairs in a way clearly violating the international laws and conventions,” he said while noting that the original jurisdiction and adjudication of Khashoggi case remains fully within the Saudi judiciary.

Referring to the legal procedures taken in the case, Al-Aiban said that the Public Prosecution had begun investigating this case after the occurrence of the incident. “The competent authorities have been instructed to collect the information and evidence necessary for the investigation and indictment, and issued warrant for the arrest of the accused and treated them in a manner that preserves their dignity and does not expose them to physical or moral harassment. The suspects were duly informed about their right to seek the services of a lawyer during the phases of investigation and trial.

He noted that the Public Prosecution interrogated the suspects at its headquarters after informing them of the charges against them in the presence of their lawyers. The Public Prosecution then referred the case to a special court and the trial is under way. Three hearings have already been held and these were attended by the accused and their lawyers. The trial sessions are continuing in accordance with the set procedures and these were in the presence of representatives of the Human Rights Commission, the National Society for Human Rights, and a number of representatives of diplomatic missions accredited to the Kingdom. The Public Prosecution continues its investigations with the remaining suspects and it is yet to collect substantial evidence to frame charges against them.

Al-Aiban, who led the Saudi delegation to the Geneva meet, affirmed that the Saudi judiciary exercises its legitimate authority and a system compatible with the internationally recognized principles of the independence of the judiciary, having the elements and standards of justice, transparency and impartiality. “The Kingdom’s judiciary exercises its functions as an independent authority,” he said, while drawing attention to some media reports and statements, globalizing some procedures taken with regard to the Khashoggi case.

Rejecting such reports categorically, Al-Aiban underlined the need to respect the sovereignty of the Kingdom and the independence of its judiciary as well as its jurisdiction over all the domestic cases, saying that such moves explicitly question the integrity of its judiciary and independence of its procedures.

With regard to the recommendations made on the rights of women and children, Al-Aiban stressed that Kingdom’s regulations prohibit domination exercised by some men over women, which were stated in recommendations pertaining to the guardian law.

On the recommendations made to the Kingdom over the military operations of the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen, Al-Aiban said that the coalition is committed to abide by the international humanitarian and human rights laws as indicated in the report. He stressed that the Kingdom is committed to stand with the Yemeni people and its legitimate government as well as to the provision of humanitarian assistance, which amounted to more than $13 billion as of January 2019, and its contribution amounted to $5 million to the donors’ conference held on Feb. 26.

Regarding the death penalty and corporal punishment, Al-Aiban said the Kingdom reiterated its position in its national human rights report noting that Article 15 of the Juvenile Law guarantees that a minor needs to serve 10-year detention in a juvenile home if the crime committed by him is punishable by death.

He noted that the Kingdom supported fully all the recommendations of the UN body with regard to human trafficking. Referring to the freedom of expression and formation of societies and conducting of legitimate and peaceful activities, Al-Aiban said that they are guaranteed under the Kingdom’s regulations.