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Saudi Arabia should adopt written penal code: HRW

[JURIST] Saudi Arabia should enact a written penal code to protect the rights of criminal suspects and minors, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Tuesday in two reports [press release] released after a year-long HRW investigation into the Saudi Arabian justice system uncovered numerous human rights violations. One report [text] documented widespread use of arbitrary arrests and vague charges for behavior which is often not designated as criminal. The other report [text] cited the routine arrests of children for actions such as running away from home or being alone with a member of the opposite sex. HRW called on Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archive] to enact widespread reforms to its criminal justice system, including providing protections for the exercise of freedom of expression and speech, ending the death penalty for offenders under the age of 18, and reinforcing the abolition of arbitrary arrests and due process violations.

Last month, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [official website] called for Saudi Arabia to abolish laws that give men complete guardianship over women [JURIST report]. Under current Saudi law, women have few or no rights with respect to marriage, divorce, child custody, and property ownership. According to Saudi officials, the government is in the process of creating a written penal code. Reuters has more.

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