A/HRC/40/52/Add.2: Visit to Saudi Arabia - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
13 December 2018
In his former capacity as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson conducted an official visit to Saudi Arabia, from 30 April to 4 May 2017, to assess the progress that had been achieved by Saudi Arabia in its law, policies and practice in the fight against terrorism, measured against international human rights law and standards. The Special Rapporteur commends, in particular, the efforts of the Government to alleviate the suffering of the victims of terrorism through comprehensive programmes involving financial, psychological, educational and moral support, and career opportunities.
Despite some positive observations, in his report, the Special Rapporteur shares several key human rights concerns and recommendations with regard to existing abusive counter-terrorism and security-related legislation to stifle dissent, the overbroad definition of terrorism that often serves as a basis for prosecuting individuals engaged in non-violent expression and advocacy, especially in defence of human rights and journalists, as well as the pattern of systematic repression in the country’s Eastern Province, where the majority of the Shia population resides.
Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur expresses his concerns about the large number of reports regarding unfair trials before the Specialized Criminal Court, prolonged periods of detention, the use of torture, coerced confessions and the lack of accountability, as well as the failure of Saudi Arabia to provide minimum procedural safeguards during detention and interrogation, and its judicial practice of admitting coerced confessions into evidence, which, in his view, amounts to a systematic and flagrant denial of justice.
With regard to the use of the death penalty following manifestly unfair trials, the Special Rapporteur stresses that its imposition — particularly in the barbaric and public way in which it is used in Saudi Arabia — is incompatible with the fundamental tenets of human rights law. He considers that the use of the death penalty by Saudi Arabia is archaic, and inhuman and degrading, not only for the person who is executed but for all those who contribute to it and who take part as spectators. It demeans and degrades the people of Saudi Arabia as a whole.
At the end of the report, the Special Rapporteur makes a number of recommendations to Saudi Arabia, including on its extraterritorial counter-terrorism engagements in Yemen and the Syrian Arab Republic.
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
the Human Rights Council at its 40th session