[JURIST] Saudi Arabia is illegally detaining thousands [press release] under the auspices of combating terrorism, according to a report [text, PDF] published Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW reports that since 2003, thousands of terrorism suspects have been detained indefinitely, in violation of Saudi law, which limits pre-trial detentions to six months. The report also charges that the Saudi domestic intelligence service, the mabahith, has prevented appropriate judicial oversight. The report claims that involuntary religious and psychological counseling for detainees who have never been charged with or convicted of any crime violates international human rights law. HRW also criticizes secret trials of detainees, such as the one that resulted in the conviction of 330 people [JURIST report] on terrorism-related charges last month. The report recommends that all mabahith detainees be released or brought to trial and that trials be conducted fairly by providing qualified legal counsel and opening proceedings to observers.
Monday's report echoes a recent report [text; JURIST report] by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], which claimed that Saudi Arabian officials are allegedly using anti-terrorism measures as an excuse to secretly detain, imprison, torture, and even kill thousands of people. In February, the US Department of State released its 2008 Report on Human Rights Practices for Saudi Arabia [text; JURIST report], in which it identified several significant human rights issues, including "denial of public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system; political prisoners; incommunicado detention" and "lack of government transparency." Last October, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz [official website] announced that the kingdom had indicted 991 [Reuters report] suspected al Qaeda members. HRW sought access [HRW request] to the trials in an attempt to ensure compliance with international standards, but was denied.