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AI: new Saudi Arabia antiterrorism law will worsen human rights violations

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Monday criticized [press release] a recently enacted Saudi Arabian counterterrorism law that it claims will entrench existing patterns of human rights violations. "This disturbing new law confirms our worst fears," said Said Boumedouha, AI's Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director. The Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing [text, PDF, in Arabic], which went into effect February 1, has been condemned by the advocacy group for its vague definitions of terrorism, including "disturbing the public order of the state" and "harming the reputation of the state or its standing." These broad definitions, as well as the lack of judicial oversight on the Ministry of Interior's search and seizure powers, AI claims are indicative of authorities' intentions to use the law to crack down on peaceful dissent.

The Saudi antiterrorism bill has drawn controversy from human rights groups since it was introduced in 2011. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz ratified the bill [JURIST report] on Sunday, making it law after it had been passed by the Council of Ministers in December. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the king to reject the bill in December, saying that it abridges seven fundamental human rights. In August 2011, the Shura Council proposed amendments [JURIST report] to the bill to bring it in line with international human rights standards. AI cited the failure to follow through on these amendments as evidence of the government's intent to use the law as a tool against dissenters. AI first expressed concern [JURIST report] over the legislation in a July 2011 press release.

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