Riyadh: A secret new anti-terror law being drawn up by the Saudi authorities would “strangle peaceful protest”, Amnesty International has said. Amnesty said the measures would severely restrict human rights. These include lengthy detention without trial, restricted legal access and increased use of the death penalty.But a Saudi official said it was directed at terrorists, not dissidents.
The Saudi government has so far declined to comment, but the senior official, who did not want to be named, confirmed the existence of the draft law and did not dispute the clauses contained in it.
Amnesty International’s Middle East press officer James Lynch told the media the draft law – a copy of which was leaked to the human rights group – “seeks to entrench some of the most repressive practices that Amnesty has been documenting for years”.
Among the measures proposed is a broadening of the definition of a terrorist crime to include any action deemed to be “harming the reputation of the state” or “endangering national unity”.
Suspects could be held incommunicado for up to 120 days – longer if authorised by a court – and there would be restrictions on access to legal advice.
Violations of the law would carry harsh punishments, with the death penalty applied in cases of taking up arms against the state or for any “terrorist crimes” that resulted in death, said Amnesty.
Questioning the integrity of Saudi Arabia’s rulers would become an offence punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Amnesty said a number of provisions in the document contradicted the kingdom’s legal obligations, including the UN Convention against Torture.
Philip Luther from the charity said the law would be a serious threat to freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia in the name of preventing terrorism.
“If passed it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism and risk massive human rights violations,” he said.