Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Human Rights In Saudi Arabia

Corporal and capital punishment; right to representation
Further information: Capital punishment in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is one of around thirty countries in the world with judicial corporal punishment. In Saudi Arabia's case this includes amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and flogging for lesser crimes such as "sexual deviance" and drunkenness. The number of lashes is not clearly prescribed by law and is varied according to the discretion of judges, and ranges from dozens of lashes to several hundreds, usually applied over a period of weeks or months.

In 2004, the United Nations Committee against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under Sharia. The Saudi delegation responded defending "legal traditions" held since the inception of Islam 1,400 years ago and rejected interference in its legal system.

Saudi Arabia also engages in capital punishment, including public executions by beheading.[4] Beheading is the punishment for murderers, rapists, drug traffickers and armed robbers, according to strict interpretation of Islamic law. In 2005 there were 191 executions, in 2006 there were 38, in 2007 there were 153, and in 2008 there were 102.[5]

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights has said that numbers of executions are rising because crime rates are rising, that prisoners are treated humanely, and that the beheadings deter crime, saying, ""Allah, our creator, knows best what's good for his people...Should we just think of and preserve the rights of the murderer and not think of the rights of others?"[6]

[edit] Women's rights
Main article: Women's rights in Saudi Arabia
Saudi women sometimes face discrimination in many aspects of their lives, such as the justice system. Although they make up 70% of those enrolled in universities, for social reasons, women make up just 5% of the workforce in Saudi Arabia,[7] the lowest proportion in the world. The treatment of women has been referred to as "Sex segregation"[8][9] and "gender apartheid".[10][11] Implementation of a government resolution supporting expanded employment opportunities for women met resistance from within the labor ministry,[12] from the religious police,[13] and from the male citizenry.[14]

In many parts of Saudi Arabia, it is believed that a woman's place is in the home caring for her husband and family. There is also segregation inside their own homes as some rooms have separate entrances for men and women.[15]

The driving ban for women was unofficial until 1990 when it was introduced as official legislation after 47 Saudi women drove cars through the streets of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Even though illegal, women in rural areas and other areas outside cities do drive cars.[16] Women are allowed to fly aircraft, though they must be chauffeured to the airport.[17]

Women's rights are at the heart of calls for reform in Saudi Arabia - calls that are challenging the kingdom's political status quo[15]. Local and international women's groups are also pushing governments to respond, taking advantage of the fact that some rulers are eager to project a more progressive image to the West.

The presence of powerful businesswomen—still a rare sight—in some of these groups helps get them heard.[18] Prior to 2008, women were not allowed to enter hotels and furnished apartments without a chaperon or mahram. With a 2008 Royal Decree, however, the only requirement needed to allow women to enter hotels are their national ID cards, and the hotel must inform the nearest police station of their room reservation and length of stay, however this happens with everybody staying in the hotel not just women.[19]

Many Saudis believe that allowing women the right to drive could lead to Western-style openness and an erosion of traditional values.[20]

According to the CIA world factbook, 70.8% of females are literate, in comparison to 84.7% literacy rates in males.[21]

[edit] Religious freedoms
Main article: Freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia

A road sign for a bypass used to restrict non-Muslims from MeccaSaudi Arabian law does not recognize religious freedom, and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is actively prohibited.[22] No law specifically requires citizens to be Muslims, but article 12.4 of the Naturalization Law requires that applicants attest to their religious affiliation, and article 14.1 requires that applicants to get a certificate endorsed by their local cleric.[23] The Government has declared the Holy Quran and the Sunna (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad to be the country’s constitution. The Government bases its legitimacy on governance according to the precepts of the rigorously conservative and strict interpretation of the Salafi or Wahhabi school of the Sunni branch of Islam and discriminates against other branches of Islam. Neither the Government nor society in general accepts the concepts of separation of religion and state, and such separation does not exist. The legal system is based on Sharia (Islamic law), with Shari'a courts basing their judgments largely on a code derived from the Quran and the Sunna. The Government permits Shi'a Muslims to use their own legal tradition to adjudicate noncriminal cases within their community.[23]

Under Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican officials have raised the issue of Christians being forbidden from worshipping openly in Saudi Arabia[24]. As an Islamic State, Saudi Arabia gives preferential treatment for Muslims. While allowing foreigners to come and work, Saudi Arabia prohibits the burial of Non-Muslims on Saudi soil[25][26] During Ramadan, eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours is not allowed.[27] Foreign schools are often required to teach a yearly introductory segment on Islam. Saudi Arabia forbids missionary work by any religion other than Wahabi/Salafi Islam. Saudi religious police have detained Shiite pilgrims participating in the Hajj, allegedly calling them "infidels in Mecca".[28] The restrictions on the Shi'a branch of Islam in the kingdom along with the banning of displaying Jewish and Christian symbols have been referred to as apartheid.[29]

It was reported that a state website detailed the prohibition of Israeli passport holders and Jewish people from entering the kingdom.[30] The Saudi government removed the offensive language saying that it was a mistake. A United States congressman noted that the Saudi record of anti-Semitism suggested otherwise and subsequently sponsored a bill that would control the distribution of visas to Saudi citizens until the President certified that the Saudis do not discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation or heritage when issuing visas.[31][32]

[edit] LGBT rights
Main article: LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia
Although not uncommon and hidden, all sexual activity outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage is illegal. Punishment for homosexuality, cross-dressing, or being involved with anything that hints at the existence of an organized gay community will range from imprisonment, deportation (for foreigners), lashes, and sometimes execution.

[edit] HIV and AIDS
By law, all Saudi citizens who are infected with HIV or AIDS are entitled to free medical care, protection of their privacy and employment opportunities. Yet, most hospitals will not treat patients who are infected, and many schools and hospitals are reluctant to distribute government information about the disease, because of the strong taboos and stigma that are attached to how the virus can be spread [33].

Until the late 1990s, information on HIV/AIDS was not widely available to the public, but this has started to change. In the late 1990s, the government started to recognize World AIDS Day, and allowed information about the disease to be published in newspapers.[citation needed]. The number of people living in the kingdom who were infected was a closely guarded secret. However, in 2003 the government announced the number of known cases of HIV/AIDS in the country.

Any foreigner found to be infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS (or, indeed, any other serious medical condition), is deported to their country of origin. Condoms are available in hospitals and pharmacies, and in some supermarkets as well.

[edit] Political freedoms
Freedom of speech and the press are restricted to forbid criticism of the government. Trade unions and political organizations are banned. Public demonstrations are forbidden. The Saudi Government is an active censor of Internet reception within its borders.[34]

Recently the internet has become a tool for dissent, however the arrest of prominent Saudi blogger and reformist Fouad al-Farhan has been seen as somewhat of a crackdown on online dissent. Fouad al-Farhan had been jailed in solitary confinement since December, 2007, without charges, after criticizing Saudi religious, business and media figures.[35] He was released on April 26, 2008.[36]

Political parties are banned, but some political dissidents were freed in the 1990s on the condition that they disband their political organizations. Only the Green Party of Saudi Arabia remains, although it is an illegal organization.

The 1990s marked a slow period of political liberalization in the kingdom as the government created a written constitution, and the advisory Consultative Council, the latter being an appointed delegation of Saudi scholars and professionals that are allowed to advise the king.

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