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Saudi Arabia secretly detaining thousands: rights group

[JURIST] Saudi Arabian officials are allegedly using anti-terrorism measures as an excuse to secretly detain, imprison, torture, and even kill thousands of people, according to a Wednesday report [text] by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. In its report, AI also called on the international community to apply pressure to Saudi Arabia, specifically urging the League of Arab States [official website, in Arabic] to "[r]eview the Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism and amend it in accordance with international standards, balancing the combating of terrorism with the need to ensure appropriate protection of human rights." AI emphasized that the nation's importance in global affairs makes pressuring it to improve human rights norms all the more important:

audi Arabia [is] strategically crucial for world powers and ... the country [has] enormous influence over regional and international affairs. ... However, the authorities in Saudi Arabia also use this religious, political and economic clout to shield the government from criticism on its human rights record by its allies.

Earlier this month, a Saudi Arabian court reportedly convicted 330 people [JURIST report] on terrorism-related charges. The Special Penal Court sentenced one defendant to death [Al Jazeera report], although the name of the prisoner and the charges against him were not made public. 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. Human Rights Watch (HRW) sought access [HRW request] to the trials in an attempt to ensure compliance with international standards.

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