Saudi Arabia : 77 Human Right Activists Send A Petition To King Abdullah Condemning Secret Tribunals

On Wednesday, May 13th 2009, the petition of condemnation of secret tribunals, demands of political and judicial reforms, and a detailed memorandum have been sent to the custodian of the two holy mosques (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud) and 20 other decision makers.

Below is the full text of the petition.

Establishing Secret Tribunals is an Attempt to Obscure Oppression and Thwart Any Possible Political Reform in Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, May 13th 2009.

To the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud

In the past few weeks, several media outlets reported the beginning of secret tribunes for hundreds of alleged-Saudi terrorists (991 defendants). Several ad hoc security courts are in place under the auspices of the Saudi judicial system. The names of the accused, the charges against them, names of judges, the exact dates, and timing of the hearing should be matter of public discourse; however, that did not happen and the judges unfortunately went on with absolute secret-court proceedings. The presiding judges should not have been under the illusion that justice will be best served under secrecy and they thought that it is within their good judgment to try the accused citizens behind closed doors. We have waited for a long time hoping that some other human-rights groups would blow the whistle and bring the case to the world’s attention; to be only disappointed by the complete lack of oversight of Saudi organizations and intellectuals. It seems to us as if the Ministry of Interior decided that those allegedly involved in violent acts or terrorism have no rights and anyone who defends them is as guilty as they are: hence their attorneys can easily be accused of being accomplices or traitors.
For these reasons we are calling for fair and public trials, otherwise it is impossible to mete out justice, especially whenever such an authoritarian government is strongly involved in the cases; in addition, a clout of secrecy will grant the government carte blanche to pass tough verdicts against helpless and powerless defendants. Based on such legal rulings which might result in the innocent being victimized, we assert that secret tribunals are unfair but also deprive the basic rights of the accused. Hence we contest the legal basis of any rendered judgments that resulted out of these “Security Courts.” Moreover, we also take this opportunity to remind everyone that violence and terrorism can only be rooted out by applying justice, and by respecting the rule of law and closely following legal procedures.
We, furthermore, take this opportunity to remind everyone that fair trials have certain measures and procedures that guarantee justice and protect rights of every individual. There are more than twenty justifications that prove our case. The strongest among these justifications is that: these secret proceedings have violated the fundamental principle of transparency, but have also denied defendants their basic rights as granted by the Islamic jurisprudence, and as prescribed by international conventions particularly the standards for judiciary independence and human rights. The Saudi statute (i.e., Criminal Procedure Law) states that accused individuals have seven basic rights that must be maintained:
1. “During the investigation, the accused shall have the right to seek the assistance of a representative or an attorney.” (Article 64)
2. “Any accused person shall have the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a representative to defend him during the investigation and trial stages.” (Article 4)
3. “The Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution shall conduct its investigation and prosecution in accordance with its Law and the implementing regulations thereof.” (Article 14)
4. “ In cases that require detention for a longer period, the matter shall be referred to the Director of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution to issue an order that the arrest be extended for a period or successive periods none of which shall exceed thirty days and their aggregate shall not exceed six months from the date of arrest of the accused. Thereafter, the accused shall be directly transferred to the competent court, or be released.” (Article 114)
5. “An arrested person shall not be subjected to any bodily or moral harm. Similarly, he shall not be subjected to any torture or degrading treatment.” (Article 2)
6. “ No penal punishment shall be imposed on any person except in connection with a forbidden and punishable act, whether under Shari’ah principles or under the statutory laws, and after he has been convicted pursuant to a final judgment rendered after a trial conducted in accordance with Shari’ah principles.” (Article 3)
7. “Court hearings shall be public. The court may exceptionally consider the action or any part thereof in closed hearings, or may prohibit certain classes of people from attending those hearings for security reasons, or maintenance of public morality, if it is deemed necessary for determining the truth.” (Article 155)

Court Trials’ publicity is one of the international standards for judiciary independence because it helps impartial judges to withstand pressures and resist possible interventions during court hearings of the accused persons. Publicity also protects judges and exposes transgressors.

Since political prisoners, in general, should have more rights, rather than being subjected to more harass¬ments, or more tortures: hence the publicity of court hearings would protect, especially political defendant’s basic rights against a totalitarian government which they oppose.

Since the Saudi justice system does not stem from general role of popular oversight of the rulers by its people, and since the Saudi judiciary lacks independent authority,

Since the Saudi judicial system has no written laws, legal precedent for political case,

Since the Saudi judiciary system constantly abuses human rights and severely punishes activist,

Since secret tribunals are pretexts for confiscating and abusing prisoners’ rights to cloak tortures,

Since there is no guarantee against extracting confessions through coercion in secret trials,

Since the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution falls under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry, it is evidence enough to demonstrate to the world community that the Saudi Judiciary is neither fair nor just,

Since the Saudi justice system accepts or justifies tortures, and since secret trials will definitely cover up courts’ admittance and ratifications of coerced confessions, and since justice is not going to be served if it is not all inclusive of the principles by which courts should reach an independent decision,

Since justice will not be guaranteed unless the judiciary system has oversights of prisons,

Since lack of publicity of court hearings limits arbitrary false criminal accusations,

Since the Ministry of Interior has the ultimate discretions vis-à-vis the accused, as it wishes to try him/her, in courts of law or let the defendants languish in prisons without verdicts.

The secret tribunals, in addition to being flagrant violation of the principles of popular oversight and justice, also hamper people’s understanding of the root causes of violence; which are lack of democratic values and political oppressions.

The authority has resorted to security solutions which deal with the symptoms rather than the root causes. Although deep inside, they know that obliterating violence requires well-balanced political solutions.

These justifications prove beyond reasonable doubts that it is not within a judge’s discretion to turn political trials into security tribunals.

Unfortunately, as the Saudi legal system engages in flagrant human-right abuses it violates the principles of Islamic jurisprudence as well.

(A 25-page legal memorandum has been attached with the Arabic version of this petition that proves beyond any reasonable doubts that secret-court trials are building blocks in the structure of a police state as the root cause of extremism, violence, and terrorism)

Recommendations and Demands:

First: We request the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to put his words “will smash the head of transgression by the sword of justice” into action by establishing a practical and institutional due process that guarantees fair court trials for all prisoners, especially the aforementioned seven basic rights. The state must adhere to clear and specific standards of principles- as prescribed in the Islamic jurisprudence, practiced in other constitutional countries, and defined by scholars of political sociology- to reach a clear definition of political crimes, anti-state rebellious warfare, and a judicial and practical due process for punishments.

Second: We would like to take this opportunity to remind his Majesty that there is an increasing relationship between extremism and official and societal violence meted out by the authority. The advocates of human rights and civic society denounce violence as means to reach or continue a tight grip on power, and would like to emphasize two points:

1. The root cause of terrorism has political reasons: despotism, injustice, human-right abuses, and oppression; and resorting to a religious discourse to sugarcoat politically motivated and ill-intended decisions has driven society toward extremism and violence. This type of mindsets and activities only flourish in dictatorial states.
2. Our emphasis on the denunciation of violence and extremism does not mean they will end by issuing of religious edicts because when people become deeply frustrated then society as a whole starts boiling and congesting like a volcano that is going to erupt with no need for any further impetus. Sometimes due to naiveté, people may believe that violence is going to cease but that will never happen unless the state roots out the real causes of violence: oppression, injustice, and absence of liberty and freedom. We believe that the carpet would not be pulled from underneath the feet of violence unless the state adopts a constitution that nurture the growth of civic-society institutions, as the only way that leads toward the establishment of a modern and democratic state. The statement by the late American president John F. Kennedy, who warned in early 1960s that: “Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible will make violent revolutions inevitable” is applicable to our state of affairs. Therefore, we remind everyone that using police brutalities only results in neglecting other components of violence, hence exaggerating security solutions-without political reforms-will distort peoples’ awareness and ultimately result in swallowing the bitter medicine.

Third: For these reasons, we remind everyone that political reform is the only solution for eliminating extremism and violence and we look forward to the establishment of, what advocates called, “the fourth Saudi State” as a beacon for democracy and human rights. We therefore request his majesty to implement his promised-reform initiatives by establishing a modern state built on democracy, justice, dignity, equality, tolerance, pluralism, and citizens’ rights. Furthermore, we request that the following constitutional reforms be implemented:

1. Ensuring judiciary independent, as called for by advocates of democracy and human rights, especially the seven criteria of fair court trails namely publicity as effective solutions to limiting violence and counter violence because they are two faces of the same coin.
2. Permission to establish unions, non-government organizations, and other forms of assembly; people must have the rights to engage in cultural, social, economic, scientific, legal, and political associations. This requires a speedy promulgation of NGOs’ regulations.
3. We emphasize Islamic tolerance, equality, and equal opportunity as the only cure of violence; in order to establish the principle of tolerance we must ascertain cultural and political pluralisms.
4. Establishing an elected parliament that ensures people’s oversight over the government.
5. Democratically elected parliament that will run with checks and balances from the public.
6. Separating the three authorities, i.e., the executive, judiciary, and legislative branches.
7. Amending the Allegiance Committee’s law by adding a critical article that stresses the rule of the elected body (the parliament) in the process, hence, the choice of the future crown price will be up to the choice of both the Allegiance Committee and the elected parliament. As for the benefits of such a procedure:

A. It limits unhealthy competitions and blocks venues that may lead to overt and covert conflicts.

B. It manifests legitimacy so we would have a practical and workable concept of democratization.

C. It combines choices of both the people and the ruling family, which will result in political stability and durability of the regime; because alienating the people from the political process would turn the country into a family’s business. It will be in the best interest of the Monarchy if the public is allowed to participate in the election process and is given a choice, and a voice. This in turn will lead to healthy competition and will allow democracy to prevail. This will also increase and validate public’s interests as well as that of the officials and the ruling bodies.

D. It will make sure the principle of “ who is best fit” as stated in Saudi Arabia’s Basic System of Governance with accordance to specific standards and applicable procedures, otherwise the “best-fit” concept would be meaningless.

8. Limiting the terms of appointed royal family’s members in government posts. Moreover, we demand designing new laws that would ensure equal opportunity, transparency, monitoring, and accountability.
9. We demand that the prime minister should be a commoner to ease accountabil¬ity and to manifest the principle of circulations of authority similar to what hap¬pened in King Saud’s reign and what is being implemented in some other construc¬tional monarchies like UK, Jordan, and Morocco.
10. Written constitutional laws must be promulgated to ensure and protect basic human rights for an individual and groups; especially political rights, rights to demonstrations and public sit-ins to express their personal sentiments and to publicly protest injustice.

Fourth: We ask his Majesty to grant necessary permission to human-right activists to see and monitor prisons. Not to jail and torture the ones who expose such practices, like what had happened to Professor Matrook Al-Faleh or others. The establishment of an independent commission to allow the hearings of human-right abuse cases, which can also investigate claims and alle¬gations. According to reports, the latest of which is a statement is¬sued by a protesting group of women in Qassim (a province located 300 km north of Saudi capital, Riyadh) who demanded restitutions for the victims and taking those al-leged defendants to courts of law in very transparent and public hearings.

Fifth: We say to the judges you must respect the rule of law, and you must reject secret tribunals. The Judges should stand up against blatant violations of law. The Judges should see what independent judges in France, former Yugoslavia, and recently in Pakistan had done to contest injustice? Why are the Judges so afraid of publicity and transpar¬ency in their courts? Have not they rendered unjust and tough punishments against peaceful advocates of constitution and human rights? Then, why are they so afraid of trying al-leged terrorists in open courts?

Sixth: We ask those who are concerned with political reform from every background in our society, human-right advocates, and attorneys to unite their efforts to defend human rights, the allegedly accused, and prisoners regardless of their backgrounds. We demand various government agencies to adhere to international benchmarks of fair trials and imprisonments for any human being, expose those responsible in abuses, and ensure publicity of court hearings. This is the only savior that would ensure perseverance of the society vis-à-vis violence and extremism and counter aggression (i.e., official).

Seventh: To the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques:

Once more, we would request his Majesty to ensure cessation of hostilities by the Ministry of Interior. In addition, we condemn the Ministry’s attempt to engage in character assassination of the advocates of constitutional reforms and human rights, by falsely accusing them of justifying and inciting violence. We would also like to emphasize and encourage our adher¬ence to peaceful means in all our discourse and deeds. Certainly, we are not in any pos¬sible way justifying violence when we elaborate on its causes; rather we present some reasons for the occurrences of violence and solutions for its elimination. We can comfortably declare, that no solution to violence and ex¬tremism is practical unless we, first and foremost, establish a new constitutional hierarchy. Second, we must allow, encourage, and respect dia¬logue in the society in order to end political debacle.

Advocates of Constitutional Reforms, Civic Society and human rights:

1. Professor Abdulkareem Yousef Al-Khathar, Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence in Qassim University and Human Right Activist.
2. Dr. Abdulrahman Hamid Al-Hamid, Assistant professor of Islamic Economics and a Human Right Activist.
3. Abdulrahman Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
4. Professor Abdullah H. Al-Hamid, Former Professor of Comparative Literature and Founding member in the Defunct and Banned Committee of Defense of the Legitimate Rights (CDLR).
5. Abdullah Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
6. Asma Mohammed Al-Saqabee.
7. Ayman Mohammed Al-Rashid, Human Right Activist.
8. Aysha Mohammad Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
9. Abdulmajeed Saud Albulawi, Writer and Human Right Activist.
10. Abdalmohsen Ali Alayashe, Human Right Activist.
11. Abdulaziz Ahmad Alfoqaha, Human Right Activist.
12. Ahmad Khalaf Alrashid, Lawyer.
13. Ahmad Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
14. Ahmad Mohammad Aal Hejri, Human-Right Activist.
15. Ali Ahmad Albahrani, Human Right Activist.
16. Ali Hamid Alhamid, Interested in public affairs.
17. Aljawhara Sulaiman Al-Bradi, Interested in public affairs.
18. Asma Abdulkarim Al-Moteq, Interested in public affairs.
19. Ibrahim Abdullah Almubarak, Lawyer.
20. Ibrahim Mugaiteeb AlMugaiteeb, Human Right Activist.
21. Fadhilah Mohammad Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
22. Fahad Abdulazia Ali Al-Orani, Human Right Activist.
23. Fatema Abdulkareem Al-Qabaa.
24. Fatema Mohammad Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
25. Fatema Mohammad Ali Al-Humaid, Interested in public affairs.
26. Fatema Rabee Almadkhaly, Human-Right Activist.
27. Fowzan Mohsan Alharbi, Human-Right Activist.
28. Easa Hamid Al-Hamid, Human-Right Activist.
29. Jaleelah Ahmed Alayashe, Human Right Activist.
30. Hafsah Mohammed Al-Saqabee.
31. Hagger Ali Al-Qabaa.
32. Haleemah Abdulkareem Al-Qabaa.
33. Hashim Abdullah Al-Refai, Human Right Activist.
34. Hessa Mohammad Ali Al-Humaid, Interested in public affairs.
35. Iman Abdulrahman Al-Shomairy, Human-Right Activist.
36. Iman Jamil Al-Deek, Interested in public affairs.
37. Khadeejah Mohammad Daheeqy, Human-Right Activist.
38. Khalaf Farhan Albulawi, Human-Right Activist.
39. Latefah Suliman Al-Abodi.
40. Lyna Abdulrahman Al-Shomairy, Human-Right Activist.
41. Maha Abdulraham Al-Qahtani, Human Right Activist.
42. Maha Ali Al-Bradi, Interested in public affairs.
43. Mai Al-Talaq, Interested in public affairs.
44. Maymonah Mohammad Al-Mudaifer, Interested in public affairs.
45. Mhana Mohammed Al-Faleh, Human Right Activist.
46. Meshari Ali Algamdi, Human Right Activist.
47. Mizznah Mohammed Al-Saqabee.
48. Mohammad Abdullah Borsais, Interested in public affairs.
49. Mohammad Hudijan Alharbi, Human Right Activist.
50. Dr. Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani, Academic and Writer.
51. Mohammed Hamad Almohaisen, Human Right Activist
52. Mohammed Saleh Albegadi, Human Right Activist.
53. Mohammed Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
54. Monna Hamad Alshwai’er, Human-Right Activist.
55. Nada Mohammad Al-Omran, Interested in public affairs.
56. Najlaa Abdulrahman Al-Shomairy, Human-Right Activist.
57. Natheer Almajed, Writer and Human-Right Activist.
58. Norah Sulaiman Al-Talaq, Interested in public affairs.
59. Nusaibah Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
60. Omar Abdulrahman Al-Shomairy, Human-Right Activist.
61. Omaimah Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
62. Reema Aljraish, Interested in public affairs.
63. Roqaiya Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
64. Roqaiya Mohammad Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
65. Saad Abdulaziz Al-Mubark, Human Right Activist.
66. Saeed Abdullah Alwahabi, Human Right Activist.
67. Safaa Abdulrahman Al-Shomairy, Human Right Activist.
68. Safiah Abdulkareem Al-Qabaa.
69. Salahaldeen Abdulrahman Al-Shomairy, Human-Right Activist.
70. Saleh Ali Al-Qabaa.
71. Salma Mohammad Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
72. Saud Amad Aldughaither, Human Right Activist.
73. Dr. Shaim Lafi Al-Hamazzani, Professor of Social Sciences, Al-Imam University.
74. Sharifah Mohammed Al-Saqabee.
75. Sultanah Ali Al-Jouresse.
76. Dr. Wajnaat Abdulraheem Al-Maimani, Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence.
77. Waleed Sami Abualkair, Writer and Legal Researcher

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