Saudi Arabia: Novel wave of arbitrary arrests against a number of public figures through the new oppressive arm of “State Security Apparatus”
Geneva 14 September 2017
Gulf and Yemen project
“Committee for Justice” – a human rights organization based in Geneva – said it is following with great concern news regarding the occurrence of a new wave of arbitrary arrests by the Saudi security forces against a number of Saudi public figures, without providing any reasons or stating any accusations against them, till writing of these lines.
And added: “the Kingdom has to immediately state the reasons for arresting those people”. The arrests took place in a time where the Kingdom declared working on arresting a number of Saudi and foreign civilians – whom it didn’t mention – with accusations related to ‘doing intelligence activities’ for the benefit of foreign parties, which were not mentioned either.
The official Saudi news agency quoted an official source, saying in a statement that “in the past period, State security was able to monitor the intelligence activities of some groups of people for the benefit of external parties against the security of the Kingdom, its interests, methodology, capabilities and social welfare with a goal of stirring up sedition and disrupting the national unity”. The statement also added that “those people were neutralized and arrested concurrently, they are Saudis and foreigners, and are being investigated to get the full facts regarding their activities, and these connected to them, with updates to be announced in this regard later”.
“Committee for justice” fears that this announced case would be a novel cover to legalize the new wave of arrests, especially after “Reuters agency” quoted on Tuesday the 12th of September 2017 a Saudi source saying that those who were arrested are accused of intelligence activities and communicating with terrorist bodies, one of them being the ‘Muslim brotherhood’, which Saudi Arabia categorized as a terrorist organization, and mentioned that it received financial support from two countries – that were not mentioned – with the goal of harming Saudi Arabia and destabilizing its national unity and security, in preparation for overthrowing the Saudi regime in favor of the ‘Muslim brotherhood’ – as quoted by Reuters-.
This wave of arrests started last Saturday the 9th of September 2017, when the “National Security Apparatus” arrested a number of Saudi preachers and public figures, with the number currently exceeding 20 people.
Despite the Saudi security authorities not announcing the personal information of the detainees arrested in this wave, the names of some of the detainees were published through social media platform and through famous social media accounts, however, “Committee for Justice” didn’t have the chance to verify these names, but some of them who were confirmed are Saudi public figures, including Salman Al Awda, Awad Al Qarani, Naser Alomr, Ali Alamry and Mohsen Alawagi.
“Committee for Justice” said “this commencement of the ‘National Security apparatus’ seems not to protect the community, but rather repressing it and restricting the freedom of opinion and expression in the Kingdom”.
The Saudi authorities had introduced the state security apparatus in July 2017, in the process of restructuring its security services, which is a separate body from the Ministry of Interior and reports to the office of the prime minister.
The text related to the order on establishment of the “State Security Presidency Apparatus” included “the General Directorate of Investigation, Special Security Forces, Special Emergency Forces, Security Air Force, Directorate General for Technical Affairs, National Information Center and all matters related to the Presidency’s tasks, including combating terrorism and its financing and financial investigations – after separating it from the ministry of interior-“.
Although Saudi Arabia’s domestic laws give it the right to detain people for five days, which could be extended to six months after presentation to the ‘Public Prosecutor’s Office’- or what was called ‘The Investigation and Prosecution Commission’- with no charge, nevertheless, this violates the standards of fair trial.
Article 114 of the Saudi Code of Criminal Procedures states that “no person may be detained without charge for more than 5 days, which may be extended for up to six months by order of the ‘Investigation and Prosecution Commission’. After six months, article 114 stipulates ‘referral to the competent court or release of detainee’”.
The United Nations “Working Group on Arbitrary Detention” has determined that detention becomes arbitrary if the detention authority fails, in whole or in part, to comply with the standards relating to the right to a fair trial, including prompt submission to the judiciary. Principle No. 11 of the United Nations’ Set of ‘Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment’ also states that a detainee must “be given a genuine opportunity to be heard as soon as possible before a judicial or other authority” and a different judicial authority or other authority should have the power to review, as appropriate, the continuation of such detention.
Also, the ‘Arab Charter on Human Rights’, ratified by Saudi Arabia in 2009, guarantees the right of any person arrested or detained on criminal charges, to be promptly presented to a judge or another legal representative, and to receive a trial within a reasonable time or to get released, and according to the Arab Charter “Pre-trial detention should not be the general rule”.