Things you need to know about Saudi Arabia
On 19 June 2019, the UN’s the Special Rapporteur released a report which concluded that Khashoggi was the victim of “an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under human rights law,” and that “there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s”. But Khashoggi’s killing is one chapter in a long line of violations to add to the Kingdom’s appalling human rights record.
1 - Devastating war in Yemen
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has contributed significantly to a war that has devastated Yemen for more than four years, killing thousands of civilians, including children, by bombing or shelling hospitals, schools and homes. Amnesty International has documented repeated violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. Despite this, countries including the US, UK and France continue to make lucrative arms deals with the Saudis.
2 - Relentless crackdown on peaceful activists, journalists and academics
Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power, many outspoken activists have been arrested or sentenced to lengthy prison terms simply for exercising peacefully their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The authorities have targeted the small but vocal community of human rights defenders, including by using anti-terrorism and anti-cybercrime laws to suppress their peaceful activism in exposing and addressing human rights violations.
3 - Arrests of women’s rights defenders
In May 2018, a number of prominent women’s rights defenders were arrested in Saudi’s ongoing crackdown on the human rights community. Following their arrests, the government launched a chilling smear campaign to discredit them as “traitors”. They are still facing trial and risk a lengthy prison sentence. Despite attempts at reform, women in Saudi Arabia are still subject to a myriad of restrictions on everyday life.
4- Routine torture in custody
Former detainees, trial defendants and others have told Amnesty International that the security forces’ use of torture and other ill-treatment remains common and widespread, and that those responsible are never brought to justice. Women's rights defenders, protesters from the predominantly Shia Muslim minority Eastern Province, and other dissidents often stand trial at the Specialised Criminal Court,the kingdom's counterterrorism court and they often face torture. Saudi Arabia has acceded to the UN Convention Against Torture - with reservations, but reports from human rights organisations and testimonies indicate that systematic torture is widespread with impunity.
5 - Systematic discrimination against women
Saudi Arabia has a guardianship system based on strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. The system is not a formal law. Women and girls still face entrenched discrimination in Saudi Arabia, and are legally subordinate to men in relation to marriage, divorce, child custody, inheritance and other aspects. Under the guardianship system, a woman cannot make decisions on their own; instead, a male relative must decide everything on her behalf. In December 2015, women voted for the first time.
6- Entrenched religious discrimination
Members of the Kingdom’s Shi’a minority continue to face entrenched discrimination that limits their access to government services and employment. Scores of Shi’a activists have been sentenced to death or long prison terms for their alleged participation in anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012.
7- ‘What happens in the Kingdom, stays in the Kingdom’
The Saudi Arabian authorities have been known to take punitive action, including through the courts, against peaceful activists and family members of victims who contact independent human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, or foreign diplomats and journalists.
8- Jamal Khashoggi’s murder
Following Jamal Khashoggi’s horrific killing, Amnesty International is calling for the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a UN independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi's extrajudicial execution, possible torture and any other crimes and violations committed in his case. Following the release of the UN report on the killing of Khashoggi, Amnesty International also calls for independent criminal investigation to uncover the truth.