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                          SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy without elected representative 
institutions or political parties.  It is ruled by King Fahd 
bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a descendent of King Abdul Aziz Al 
Saud, who unified the country in the early 20th century.  The 
King and the Crown Prince are chosen from among the male 
descendants of King Abdul Aziz.  There is no written 
Constitution.  The concept of the separation of religion and 
state is not accepted by either society or the Government.  The 
legitimacy of the Government depends to a large degree on its 
perceived adherence to the precepts of a puritanically 
conservative form of Islam.  Most Saudis respect the legal 
system, which they believe is divinely inspired.  They also 
revere such ancient customs as government by consensus, 
internal social cohesion, respect for private property, and 
private economic enterprise.  The Government disagrees with 
internationally accepted definitions of human rights and views 
Islamic law as the only necessary guide to protect human rights.

In 1992 King Fahd appointed a Consultative Council, the Majlis 
Ash-Shura, and similar provincial assemblies.  The Council 
began holding sessions in 1994.  The Government does not permit 
the establishment of political parties and suppresses 
opposition views.  The legal system is based on the regime's 
interpretation of Shari'a, or Islamic law.  Since the death of 
King Abdul Aziz, the King and the Crown Prince have been chosen 
from among his sons, who themselves have had preponderant 
influence in the choice.  A 1992 Royal decree reserves for the 
King the exclusive power to name the Crown Prince.

Police and border forces under the Ministry of Interior are 
responsible for internal security.  The Mutawwa'in, or 
volunteer religious police, are part of the Organization to 
Prevent Vice and To Promote Virtue, a semi-autonomous agency 
which encourages adherence to Islamic values by monitoring 
public behavior.  The Mutawwa'in continued to confront and 
abuse citizens and foreigners of both sexes.  They committed 
many abuses during the year.  The Mutawwa'in are government 
employees; however, other citizens sometimes represent 
themselves as Mutawwa'in when in fact they are not.

The oil industry has transformed Saudi Arabia from a pastoral, 
agricultural, and commercial economy to a rapidly urbanizing 
one characterized by large-scale infrastructure projects, the 
emergence of a welfare state and a middle class, and millions 
of foreign workers.  Oil revenues account for one-third of the 
gross domestic product (GDP) and three-fourths of the 
government budget.  Oil has also enriched members of the royal 
family and their associates.  Agriculture accounts for only 
about 5 percent of GDP.  Government spending, including 
spending on the national airline, and power, water, telephone, 
education and health services, accounts for 29 percent of GDP.  
About 36 percent of the economy is in private hands, and the 
Government is promoting further privatization of the economy.

Human rights abuses in 1994 continued.  Principal abuses 
included:  the torture of prisoners; incommunicado detention; 
prohibitions or restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, 
and religion; systematic discrimination against women; and 
strict limitations, and even suppression, of the rights of 
workers and ethnic and religious minorities.  There is no 
mechanism for citizens to change their government.  The 
Government's legitimacy is based on its adherence to the 
Shari'a and upon the consent of the governed, who are obliged 
to obey the ruler as long as he continues to govern according 
to Islamic law.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were credible reports that the authorities continued to 
torture and otherwise abuse detainees, including citizens and 
foreigners.  A common method of torture is beating, especially 
"fallaqa," which is a beating on the soles of the feet to cause 
intense pain.  The authorities also deprive detainees of sleep.

Agents of the Ministry of Interior are allegedly responsible 
for most incidents of abuse.  The Government's failure to 
announce the punishment of human rights abusers has contributed 
to a public perception that abuses can be committed with 

The Mutawwa'in were also responsible for abuse.  In May they 
arrested 19 expatriate workers from the United States, Egypt, 
Canada, Ireland, and Venezuela after they departed a party at a 
private home.  The Mutawwa'in reportedly beat an Egyptian and a 
Venezuelan man, ripped off the outer clothing of an Egyptian 
woman, and severely beat an American woman, ramming her head on 
a car door, resulting in serious injury to her face and one 
eye.  Following diplomatic protests, the Government indicated 
privately that it had conducted a high-level investigation and 
that "very strong measures had been taken" against the 
Mutawwa'in involved.  However, government officials did not 
specify what actions were taken and did not make a public 
report on the incident.

In April, after CDLR spokesman Mohamed Al-Mas'ari fled the 
Kingdom, security forces arrested several members and 
sympathizers of the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate 
Rights (CDLR) (see Sections 1.d. and 2.a.).  Security officials 
reportedly tortured these detainees after their arrest.  In 
accordance with standard practice, the Government did not 
comment on the allegations.  Al-Mas'ari reported that he was 
tortured during 6 months of detention in 1993.

While regular access to detention facilities by impartial 
observers is rare, representatives of the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited detention camps 
holding Gulf War refugees.  In 1993 during her visit to the 
Rafha refugee camp at the invitation of the Government, U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees Ogata praised the Government's 
contributions to the refugees' welfare.

In May Amnesty International (AI) published a report containing 
allegations that guards tortured and beat refugees at the Rafha 
camp.  However, reliable sources indicate that the allegations 
were inaccurate and exaggerated.  Many of the incidents cited 
in the AI report allegedly occurred between 1991 and 1993.  
Sources from UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red 
Cross (ICRC) confirmed some of those incidents and reported 
that authorities promptly removed the guards responsible for 
abuses.  The sources also maintain that documented cases of 
abuse of refugees by guards dropped significantly during that 

The Government rigorously observes the criminal punishments 
according to its interpretation of Islamic Law, including 
amputation for repeated theft and execution by beheading and 
stoning.  In 1994 the authorities beheaded 59 of the 60 persons 
convicted for drug trafficking, rape, and murder.  They impose 
execution by firing squad for women convicted of capital 
offenses; there was one such execution in 1994.  The number of 
executions, which had risen in recent years because of drug 
trafficking, was down from 85 in 1993.

The authorities punish repeated thievery by amputation of the 
right hand.  In 1994 they imposed this punishment on 5 Sudanese 
and a Pakistani.  For less serious crimes, such as drunkenness 
or publicly flouting Islamic precepts, the authorities often 
impose flogging with a cane.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, but there are few police 
procedures to safeguard against abuse.  Arresting officers have 
broad discretion to determine the grounds for arrest and 
frequently set their own standards for the rights of 
detainees.  A person may be detained without charge during the 
investigation of a crime, a period that may last weeks or 
months.  In many cases, the authorities do not inform detainees 
of the charges against them.  The authorities detain most 
suspects for no longer than 3 days before charging them but 
have detained others for long periods before charging or 
releasing them.

The Mutawwa'in have the authority to detain people for no more 
than 24 hours for violations of behavior standards.  However, 
they sometimes exceed this limit before delivering detainees to 
the regular police (see Section 1.f.).  Current procedures 
require a police officer to accompany the Mutawwa'in before the 
latter makes an arrest.  Recently, the Mutawwa'in have been 
less active in harassing individuals.

In 1993 the King established an office of investigation and 
public prosecution.  Accordingly, only the public prosecutor is 
authorized to conduct criminal investigations, a power 
previously shared by several government agencies.  At year's 
end, however, the public prosecutor's office was not fully 

There is no established procedure providing detainees the right 
to inform their family of their arrest.  The law has no 
provision for bail or habeas corpus.  Detainees are sometimes 
released on the recognizance of a patron or sponsoring 
employer.  If asked, the authorities usually confirm an arrest 
of foreign residents.  In general, however, embassies learn 
about such arrests through informal channels.  The authorities 
may take as long as several months to provide official 
notification of the arrest of foreigners, if at all.

Detainees arrested by the General Directorate of Investigation 
(GDI), the Ministry of Interior's security service, or 
"Mubahith," are commonly held incommunicado during the initial 
phase of an investigation, which may last weeks or months.  The 
GDI allows the detainees only limited contact with their 
families or lawyers.

The authorities often detain without charges people who 
publicly criticize the Government or they charge them with 
attempting to destabilize the Government (see Sections 2.a. 
and 3).  In April and May, the Government detained 15 to 20 
members or supporters of the CDLR, including relatives of CDLR 
spokesman Mohamed Al-Mas'ari (see Section 1.a.).

The authorities arrested an American citizen on May 28, 
reportedly for sympathizing with the CDLR.  They held him in 
isolation for 3 weeks, reportedly beat him during 
interrogation, and deported him after release.  The authorities 
did not respond to repeated diplomatic requests for access by a 
consular officer or for information about the charges.

The authorities also arrested Salman Al-Awdah and Safar 
Al-Hawali, Muslim clerics who had publicly criticized the 
Government.  Their detention sparked protest demonstrations by 
hundreds of individuals demanding their release.  In September 
and October, the authorities arrested 157 people for engaging 
in demonstrations or other antigovernment activities.  The 
Government released 130 of the detainees on October 16, after 
they pledged not to repeat their actions.  At year's end, the 
remaining 27 persons remained in detention pending 

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is based on Islamic law, or Shari'a.  
Regular Shari'a courts exercise jurisdiction over common 
criminal cases and civil suits regarding marriage, divorce, 
child custody, and inheritance.  Other civil proceedings, 
including those involving claims against the Government and 
enforcement of foreign judgments, are held before specialized 
administrative tribunals, such as the Commission for the 
Settlement of Labor Disputes and the Board of Grievances.  
Aside from the Koran and Sunna, which are the authenticated 
sayings of the Prophet Mohamed, there are no written laws or 
precedents by which the Shari'a courts make judgments.  The 
Government permits Shi'a Muslims to use their own legal 
tradition to adjudicate only noncriminal cases within their 

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the appointment, 
transfer, and promotion of Shari'a court judges.  Only the 
Supreme Judicial Council, a body of senior jurists, may 
discipline or remove judges.  The independence of the judiciary 
is prescribed by law and is usually respected in practice, 
although judges occasionally accede to the influence of members 
of the royal family and their associates.  At the provincial 
level, governors have reportedly threatened, and even detained, 
judges over disagreements on their decisions.  In general, the 
public perceives members of the royal family, and other 
powerful families, as not subject to the same rule of law as 
ordinary citizens.  For example, judges do not have the power 
to issue a warrant summoning any member of the royal family.  
The luggage of princes and other influential persons is not 
subject to customs inspection on entering the country.

Defendants usually appear without an attorney before a judge, 
who determines guilt or innocence in accordance with Shari'a 
standards.  Defense lawyers may offer their client advice 
before trial or may attend the trial as interpreters for those 
unfamiliar with Arabic.  The courts do not provide foreign 
defendants with translators.  There is no licensing procedure 
for lawyers.  Individuals may choose any person to represent 
them by a "power of attorney" filed with the court and Ministry 
of Justice.  Most trials are closed.

In the absence of two witnesses, or four witnesses in the case 
of adultery, confessions before a judge are almost always 
required for criminal conviction--a situation which opens the 
possibility that prosecuting authorities may seek to obtain 
forced confessions.  Sentencing is not uniform and may vary 
according to the nationality of the defendant.  Under Shari'a 
law, as interpreted and applied in Saudi Arabia, crimes against 
Muslims receive harsher penalties than those against 
non-Muslims.  In the case of wrongful death, the amount of 
indemnity or "blood money" awarded to relatives varies with the 
nationality, religion, and sex of the victim.  A sentence may 
be changed at any stage of review, except for punishments 
stipulated by the Koran.  Provincial governors have the 
authority to exercise leniency and reduce a judge's sentence.

Appeals are automatically reviewed by a three-judge panel at 
the Ministry of Justice or, in more serious cases, by the Court 
of Cassation and the Supreme Judicial Council.  The reviews are 
conducted to ensure that the trial judge applied appropriate 
legal principles and punishments.

The King and his advisors review cases involving capital 
punishment to ensure that the court applied the proper legal 
and Islamic principles.  The King has the authority to grant 
pardons and commute death sentences, but he does not have the 
authority to pardon capital crimes committed against 
individuals.  In such cases, he may request the victim's next 
of kin to pardon the murderer--usually in return for 
compensation from the family or the King.

The military justice system has jurisdiction over uniformed 
personnel and civil servants charged with violations of 
military regulations.  Court-martial decisions are reviewed by 
the Minister of Defense and Aviation and by the King.

There is insufficient information to determine the number of 
political prisoners because the Government does not provide 
information on such persons or respond to inquiries about 
them.  Moreover, the Government conducts closed trials for 
persons who may be political prisoners and in other cases has 
detained persons incommunicado for long periods while under 
investigation.  At year's end, the Government detained an 
estimated 15 to 20 people for their alleged connections with 
the CDRL, and 27 others for their alleged participation in 
demonstrations protesting the detention of two fundamentalist 

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The sanctity of family life and the inviolability of the home 
are among the most fundamental of Islamic precepts.  Royal 
decrees announced in 1992 include provisions calling for the 
Government to defend the home from unlawful incursions.

The police must generally demonstrate reasonable cause and 
obtain permission from the provincial governor before searching 
a private home, but warrants are not required.  However, some 
Mutawwa'in continued to enter homes forcibly, searching for 
evidence of un-Islamic behavior, and to harass and abuse 
perceived transgressors.

Customs officials routinely open mail for contraband, including 
material deemed pornographic as well as non-Muslim religious 
material.  They regularly confiscate materials deemed 
offensive.  The authorities use informants, wiretaps, and open 
mail in internal security matters.  Government officials 
reportedly wiretapped the telephone conversations of CDLR 
spokesman Al-Mas'ari with foreign journalists and human rights 

The Government enforces most social and Islamic religious 
norms, which are matters of law (see Section 5).  Women may not 
marry non-Saudis without government permission.  Although women 
are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, men have the right to 
marry Christians and Jews.  Men must obtain approval from the 
Ministry of Interior to marry women from countries outside the 
six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Both citizens and foreigners were targets of harassment by 
members of the Mutawwa'in--and even by religious vigilantes 
acting independently of the Mutawwa'in.  The Government has not 
condemned the actions of religious vigilantes or sought to 
disband such groups.

The Mutawwa'in continued to press for enforcement of their 
strict standards of social behavior, including the closure of 
commercial establishments during the daily prayer observances, 
appropriate dress in public, and avoidance of video tape rental 
shops.  They harassed Saudi and foreign women for failure to 
observe strict dress codes, and for being in the company of 
males who are not their close relatives.  They also harassed 
non-Muslims attempting to conduct religious services (see 
Section 2.c.).

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The law severely limits the freedom of speech and press.  The 
authorities do not countenance criticism of Islam, the ruling 
family, or the Government.

In 1994 CDLR spokesman Al-Mas'ari secretly fled to the United 
Kingdom (UK), where he sought political asylum and established 
an overseas branch of the CDLR (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.).  
Established in 1993 by six citizens, the CDLR criticizes the 
Government's human rights record from the perspective of 
Islamic principles and advocates stricter adherence to Islamic 
principles by the Royal family and the Government.  After the 
CDLR criticized the Government in the international press in 
1993, security forces detained 38 of its members, including 
Al-Mas'ari, confiscated their passports, and forbade them to 
travel or speak publicly.  The authorities dismissed several 
founding members from their government jobs.  They subsequently 
released the detainees after they signed statements promising 
not to discuss the Government's policies or communicate with 
anyone outside the country by telephone or facsimile machine.  
Al-Mas'ari was released in November 1993 after spending 6 
months in detention.

In the UK, Al-Mas'ari continued to disseminate tracts critical 
of the Government, particularly of King Fahd, Interior Minister 
Prince Naif, and Riyadh Governor Prince Salman.  His publicized 
views have expressed opposition to peace with Israel and to 
Saudi support for the peace process.  After Al-Mas'ari fled, 
security forces arrested 15 to 20 of his relatives and 
supporters.  In late 1994, the Government released several of 
these detainees, including Dr. Fouad Dehlawi; Mas'ari's 
brother, Lu'ay al-Mas'ari; and Mas'ari's brothers-in law, 
Rashad and Nabil al-Mudarris.  Others remain in custody.  The 
Government has not publicly acknowledged any of these 

In mid-September, Interior Ministry authorities arrested two 
Muslim clerics and critics of the Government, Salman Al-Awdah 
and Safar Al-Hawali, for violating a government order 
prohibiting them from delivering lectures or sermons critical 
of the Government.  In 1993 Al-Awdah and Al-Hawali reportedly 
had refused to sign a statement acknowledging the order.  
Ministry of Interior officials claimed that they detained 
Al-Awdah and Al-Hawali to safeguard the security and stability 
of the nation.  At year's end, the clerics were still in 
detention (see Section 1.d.).

In August the United States granted asylum to Mohamed 
Al-Khilewi, a Saudi diplomat assigned to the United Nations in 
New York City.  Al-Khilewi claimed that he feared for his life 
if he returned to Saudi Arabia because he had written a letter 
to the royal family and to a Saudi religious leader alleging 
human rights abuses, official corruption, and official support 
for terrorist groups.  The Government has said that Al-Khilewi 
would not face retribution if he returned.

The press is privately owned, but a 1982 media policy statement 
and a 1965 national security law prohibit the dissemination of 
criticism of the Government.  The media policy statement urges 
journalists to uphold Islam, oppose atheism, promote Arab 
interests, and preserve the cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia.  
The Ministry of Information appoints, and may remove, the 
editors in chief.  It also provides guidelines to newspapers on 
controversial issues.  The Government owns the Saudi Press 
Agency, which expresses official government views.

Newspapers publish domestic news on sensitive subjects, such as 
crime or terrorism, only after the authorities arrest and 
sentence the perpetrators.  The Government suppresses any news 
regarded as a threat to national security.  The press reports 
foreign news objectively, but the authorities censor stories 
about the Kingdom in the foreign press.  Censors may remove or 
blacken the offending articles, or prevent certain issues of 
foreign publications from entering the market.  The Government 
tightly restricts the entry of foreign journalists into the 

The Government owns and operates the television and radio 
companies.  Government censors review foreign programs and 
songs, often removing any reference to politics, religions 
other than Islam, pork or pigs, alcohol, or sexual innuendo.

There are 100,000 to 200,000 satellite receiving dishes in the 
Kingdom which provide citizens with foreign broadcasts.  The 
legal status of these devices is ambiguous.  The Government 
ordered a halt to the import of satellite dishes in 1992--at 
the request of religious leaders who objected to foreign 
programming available on satellite channels.  In March the 
Government banned the installation of dishes and supporting 
devices.  However, consumers continued to buy and install the 

Academic freedom is restricted.  The authorities prohibit the 
study of evolution, Freud, Marx, music, and Western 
philosophy.  Some professors believe that Government and 
conservative religious informers monitor their classroom 

The Government censors all forms of public artistic 
expression.  The authorities prohibit cinemas and public 
musical or theater performances, except those that are strictly 

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government strictly limits these freedoms.  It prohibits 
public demonstrations as a means of political expression and 
the establishment of political parties or any type of 
opposition group (see Section 3).  By its power to license 
associations, the Government ensures that groups conform to 
public policy.

Public meetings are segregated by sex.  Unless meetings are 
sponsored by diplomatic missions, foreign residents seeking to 
hold unsegregated meetings risk arrest and deportation.

The authorities monitor any large gathering of people, 
especially of women.  In January the Government closed all 
health clubs, but several months later the clubs reopened for 
male patrons only.  Health clubs for women remain closed.  The 
Government has not explained why the clubs have been closed to 

In February the Mutawwa'in closed a proposed cultural program 
for Saudi and expatriate women.  The Mutawwa'in indicated that 
a public gathering featuring a fashion show and dancing was not 
an appropriate activity for women.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion does not exist.  Islam is the official 
religion, and all citizens must be Muslims.  The Government 
prohibits the practice of other religions according to an 
injunction attributed to the Prophet Mohammed.  Conversion by a 
Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy.  Public 
apostasy is a crime under Shari'a law and punishable by death.  
There were no executions in 1994 for apostasy.

Islamic practice is generally limited to that of the Wahabi 
sect's interpretation of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islamic 
jurisprudence.  Practices contrary to this interpretation, such 
as visits to the graves of renowned Muslims or public prayers 
according to Shi'a Islam, are discouraged.

The Shi'a Muslim minority of 500,000 persons lives mostly in 
the Eastern Province.  They are the objects of officially 
sanctioned social and economic discrimination (see Section 5).  
Prior to 1990, the Government prohibited Shi'ite public 
processions during the Islamic month of Muharram and restricted 
other processions and congregations to designated areas in the 
major Shi'ite cities.  Since 1990, the authorities have 
permitted marches on the Shi'a holiday of Ashura, provided the 
marchers do not display banners or engage in 
self-flagellation.  Only 1 of the 60 members of the Majlis 
Ash-Shura is a Shi'a.

The Government seldom permits private construction of Shi'ite 
mosques, and the Shi'a have refused government offers to build 
state-supported mosques, because Shi'ite motifs would be 
prohibited in them.

The Government does not permit public or private non-Muslim 
religious activities.  Persons wearing religious symbols of any 
kind in public risk confrontation with the Mutawwa'in.  The 
general prohibition against religious symbols applies also to 
Muslims.  A Muslim wearing a Koranic necklace in public would 
be admonished.  Non-Muslim worshippers risk arrest and 
deportation for engaging in any religious activity that 
attracts official attention.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government restricts the travel of Saudi and non-Saudi 
women.  Women must obtain written permission from their closest 
male relative before the authorities will allow them to board 
public transportation between different parts of the country or 
travel abroad (see Section 5).  Males may travel anywhere 
within the country.

The Government requires foreign residents to carry 
identification cards.  It does not permit foreigners to travel 
outside the city of their employment or change their workplace 
without their sponsor's permission.  Foreign residents who 
travel in the Kingdom are often asked by the authorities to 
show they possess letters of permission from their employers.

Foreign workers must also obtain permission from their sponsors 
to travel abroad.  Sponsors generally retain possession of the 
workers' passports.  If sponsors are involved in a commercial 
or labor dispute with foreign employees, they may ask the 
authorities to prohibit the employees from departing the 
country until the dispute is resolved.  Some sponsors use this 
pressure tactic to resolve disputes in their favor--or to have 
foreign employees deported.

The Government seizes the passports of all potential suspects 
and witnesses in criminal cases, and suspends the issuance of 
exit visas to them, until the case is tried.  As a result, some 
foreign nationals are forced to remain in the Kingdom for 
lengthy periods against their will.  The authorities sometimes 
confiscate the passports of suspected subversives.  The 
Government prevents Shi'a Muslims believed to have pro-Iranian 
sympathies from traveling abroad.

Citizens may emigrate, but the law prohibits dual citizenship.  
There are no provisions for long-term foreign residents to 
acquire citizenship.  However, foreigners are granted 
citizenship in rare cases, generally through the advocacy of an 
influential patron.

In April the Government revoked the citizenship of Osama Bin 
Laden, a wealthy citizen known to support Islamic terrorist 
groups, for refusing to return from abroad to answer charges 
concerning his activities.  The Interior Ministry issued a 
statement that Bin Laden "contradicted the Kingdom's interest 
and harmed its relations with sisterly countries."  After his 
citizenship was revoked, Bin Laden was banned from reentering 
the Kingdom.

Article 42 of the 1992 Basic Law provides that "the State will 
grant political asylum if the public interest mitigates" in 
favor of it.  The language does not specify clear rules for 
adjudicating asylum cases.  In general, the authorities regard 
refugees and displaced persons like other foreign workers:  
they must have sponsors for employment or risk expulsion at the 

After the Gulf War, the Government granted refuge to 35,000 
Iraqi civilians and former prisoners of war.  At year's end, 
16,000 have been resettled in third countries or were 
voluntarily repatriated to Iraq.  Most of the remaining 18,400 
refugees are restricted to the Rafha Refugee Camp.  In 1993 
Human Rights Watch reported that refugees were forcibly 
repatriated to Iraq after staging a riot at the Rafha camp.  
However, the UNHCR has monitored over 2,450 refugees 
voluntarily returning to Iraq since 1991 and found no evidence 
of forcible repatriations in 1993 or 1994.

The Government has temporarily allowed some foreigners to 
remain in Saudi Arabia in cases where their safety would be 
jeopardized if they were deported to their home countries.  The 
authorities also worked with the UNHCR to repatriate several 
hundred southern Yemeni refugees after the end of the Yemen 
civil war.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have the right to change their government.  
There are no formal democratic institutions, and only a few 
citizens have a voice in the choice of leaders or in changing 
the political system.  The King rules in matters civil and 
religious, within certain limitations established by religious 
law, tradition, and the need to maintain consensus among the 
ruling family and religious leaders.

The King is also the Prime Minister, and the Crown Prince 
serves as first deputy Prime Minister.  The King appoints all 
other ministers, who in turn appoint subordinate officials with 
Cabinet concurrence.

In 1993 the King appointed 60 members to a Consultative 
Council, or Majlis Ash-Shura.  It is an advisory body only.  It 
began to hold sessions in 1994, but it has not publicized its 
work in detail.

The Council of Senior Islamic Scholars is another advisory body 
to the King and the Cabinet.  It issues decisions based on 
Shari'a law supporting the Government's public policies.  The 
Government uses the Council as an important source of religious 

Communication between citizens and the Government is usually 
expressed through client-patron relationships and by affinity 
groups such as tribes, families, and professional hierarchies.  
The open-door audience, or majlis, is the primary forum for 
expressing an opinion or grievance.  Any male citizen or 
foreign national may attend these sessions held by the King, 
princes, or important national and local officials.  
Participation by women is restricted, although some women seek 
redress through female members of the royal family.

As governmental functions have become more complex, 
time-consuming, and centralized, public access to senior 
officials has become more difficult.  After the assassination 
of King Faisal in 1975, Saudi kings have reduced the frequency 
of their personal contacts with the public.  Access to King 
Fahd by ordinary citizens is difficult, in part due to strict 
security measures.

Typical topics raised in a majlis are complaints about 
bureaucratic delay or insensitivity, requests for redress or 
assistance, and criticism of particular acts of government 
affecting personal or family welfare.  Broader "political" 
concerns--Saudi social, economic, or foreign policy--are raised 
only occasionally.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no publicly active human rights groups, and none 
critical of government policies would be permitted.  The 
Government acted quickly to repress the CDLR following the 
announcement of its formation in 1993 (see Section 2.a.).

The Government does not permit visits by international human 
rights groups, any visits to prisoners by independent monitors, 
nor has it signed major international human rights treaties and 
conventions.  The Government disagrees with internationally 
accepted definitions of human rights and views Islamic law as 
the only necessary guide to protect human rights.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


By religious law and social custom, women have few political 
and social rights, and are not treated as equal members of 
society.  Women, including foreigners, may not legally drive 
motor vehicles or ride bicycles and are restricted in their use 
of public facilities when men are present.  Women must enter 
city buses by separate rear entrances and sit in specially 
designated sections.  Women risk arrest by the Mutawwa'in for 
riding alone in a vehicle driven by a male who is not an 
employee or a close male relative.  By law and custom, women 
may not undertake domestic or foreign travel alone (see Section 

In public women are required to wear the abaya, a black garment 
covering the entire body, including the head and face.  The 
Mutawwa'in generally expect women from Arab countries, Asia, 
and Africa to comply more fully with Saudi customs of dress 
than Western women; nonetheless, in recent years they have 
increased pressure on Western women to wear the abaya and cover 
their hair.

Women are also subject to discrimination in Islamic law which 
stipulates that daughters receive half the inheritance awarded 
to their brothers--reflecting the fact that men have financial 
obligations to their mothers and sisters.  In a Shari'a court, 
the testimony of one man equals that of two women.

Although Islamic law permits polygyny, it is becoming less 
common.  Islamic law limits a husband to four wives, provided 
that he treats each wife equally.  In practice, such equality 
is left to the discretion of the husband.

Women must demonstrate legally specified grounds for divorce, 
but men may divorce without giving cause.  If divorced or 
widowed, a woman normally may keep her children until they 
attain the age of 7.  Children over 7 are awarded to the 
divorced husband.  Divorced women who are foreigners are often 
prevented by their former husbands from visiting their children 
after divorce.

Women have access to free, but segregated, education through 
the university level.  They constitute 55 percent of all 
university graduates--but are excluded from studying such 
subjects as engineering, journalism, and architecture.  Men are 
able to study overseas; women may do so if accompanied by a 
spouse or an immediate male relative.

Women make up only 5 percent of the work force.  Most 
employment opportunities for women are in education and health 
care, with lesser opportunity in business, philanthropy, 
banking, retail sales, and the media.  Women wishing to enter 
nontraditional fields are subject to arbitrary discrimination.  
Women may not accept jobs in rural areas if they are required 
to live apart from their families.  All workplaces where women 
are present are segregated by sex.  Contact with male 
supervisors or clients is allowed only by telephone or 
facsimile machine.

Hospital workers report that many women are admitted for 
treatment of injuries that apparently result from spousal 
violence.  "Islamic advice" columns in the press sometimes 
recommend the "strict disciplining" of women, an expression 
understood to encompass some degree of physical force as part 
of a proper marriage.

There were credible reports that some Western women married to 
Saudis, and their children, have suffered physical abuse from 
the spouse or father.  Appropriate embassy officials must seek 
the assistance of government officials to intervene in such 
cases.  The Government does not keep statistics on spousal or 
other forms of violence against women.

Embassies receive many reports that employers abuse foreign 
women working as domestic servants.  In general, the Government 
considers such cases as family matters and does not intervene 
unless charges of abuse are brought to its attention.  It is 
almost impossible for foreign women to obtain redress in the 
courts due to the court's strict evidentiary rules and the 
women's own fears of reprisals.  Few employers have been 
punished for such abuses.  There are no private support groups 
or religious associations to which these women could turn for 


The Government provides all children with free education and 
medical care.  Children are highly valued in society, and large 
families are common.  Reports of abuse of children are rare.  
Children are not subject to the strict social segregation faced 
by women.  Children are segregated by sex in schools starting 
at age 7.  Boys are segregated in social situations at age 12, 
and girls at the onset of puberty.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although racial discrimination is illegal, there is substantial 
societal prejudice based on ethnic or national origin.  Foreign 
workers from Africa and Asia are subject to various forms of 
formal and informal discrimination and have the most difficulty 
in obtain justice for their grievances.

     Religious Minorities

The Government is intolerant of the practice of any non-Islamic 
religion.  It also subjects the Shi'a Muslim minority to 
stringent religious repression (see Section 2.c.).  Shi'a 
citizens are discriminated against in government and 
employment, especially in national security jobs.  Several 
years ago the Government subjected Shi'a to employment 
restrictions in the oil industry and has not relaxed them.  
Some Sunni clerics, including Al-Awdah and one CDLR founder, 
have made strong anti-Shi'a statements (see Section 2.a.).

Shi'a also face restrictions on access to social services, 
despite efforts by the Government to improve the social service 
infrastructure in predominantly Shi'a areas of the country.  
Since the Iranian revolution, some Shi'a have been subjected 
periodically to surveillance and limitations on travel abroad.  
Some Sunni clerics advocate stronger government discriminatory 
measures against Shi'a citizens.

     People with Disabilities

Traditionally, disabled individuals were secluded within the 
family, but the provision of government social services has 
brought the disabled into the public.  Public awareness and 
acceptance of the disabled are growing.  The Government and 
private charitable organizations cooperate in education, 
employment, and other services for the disabled.  The law 
provides hiring quotas for the disabled.  While there is no 
legislation for public accessibility, newer commercial 
buildings often include such access.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Government decrees prohibit the establishment of labor unions 
and any strike activity.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is forbidden.  Foreign workers comprise 
about half of the work force.  Wages are set by employers on 
the basis of market forces, but vary according to the 
nationality of the worker.  There are no export processing 

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor has been prohibited since 1962 by the royal decree 
that abolished slavery.  Ratification of the International 
Labor Organization's (ILO) Conventions 29 and 105, which 
prohibit forced labor, has the force of law.  However, 
employers have significant control over the movements of 
foreign employees, giving rise to situations that might involve 
forced labor--especially in remote areas where workers are 
unable to leave their place of work.  Sometimes sponsors 
prevent foreign workers from obtaining exit visas to pressure 
them to sign a new work contract.  In another pressure tactic, 
sponsors may refuse to provide foreign workers with a "letter 
of no objection" which would allow them to be employed by 
another sponsor.

The labor laws do not protect domestic servants.  There were 
credible reports that female domestic servants were sometimes 
forced to work 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There were 
numerous confirmed reports of runaway maids.  The authorities 
often returned runaway maids to their employers against the 
maids' wishes.

There have been many reports of workers whose employers have 
refused to pay several months, or even years, of accumulated 
salary or other promised benefits.  Nondomestic workers with 
such grievances have the right to complain before the labor 
courts, but few do so because of fear of deportation.  The 
Government abets the exploitation of foreign workers because 
the system for enforcing work contracts is weak and generally 
favors Saudi employers.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 13 years, which may be waived 
by the Ministry of Labor with the consent of the juvenile's 
guardian.  There is no minimum age for workers employed in 
family-operated businesses or in other situations that are 
construed as extensions of the household, e.g., farmers, 
herdsmen, and domestic servants.  Workers in such fields are 
not protected by labor regulations.  There were reports that 
children aged 5 to 12 years are used as jockeys in camel racing.

Children under age 18 and women may not be employed in 
hazardous or harmful industries, such as mines or industries 
employing power-operated machinery.  While there is no formal 
government entity charged with enforcing the minimum age for 
employment of children, the Ministry of Justice has 
jurisdiction and has acted as plaintiff in the few cases that 
have arisen against alleged violators.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no legal minimum wage.  Labor regulations establish a 
48-hour workweek at regular pay and allow employers to require 
up to 12 additional hours of overtime at time-and-a-half pay.  
Saudi labor law provides for a 24-hour rest period, normally 
Fridays, although the employer may grant it on another day.

Many foreign nationals who have been recruited abroad have 
complained that, after arrival in Saudi Arabia, they were 
presented with work contracts specifying lower wages and fewer 
benefits than originally promised.  Other foreign workers have 
reportedly signed contracts in their home countries and were 
later pressured to sign less favorable contracts after 
arrival.  Reliable reports indicate that the length of service 
called for in the original contract is sometimes increased 
after arrival by as much as 3 years.  Some employees report 
that at the end of their contract service, their employers 
refuse to grant permission to allow them to return home.

The ILO has stated that the Government has not formulated 
legislation implementing the ILO Convention on equal pay and 
that regulations which segregate work places by sex, and limit 
vocational programs for women, violate ILO Convention 111.

Saudi labor regulations require employers to protect most 
workers from job-related hazards and disease.  Workers in 
family operated businesses, farmers, herdsmen, and domestic 
servants are not covered by these regulations.  Ministry of 
Labor inspectors and the labor courts are seeking, with some 
success, to enforce the Labor Code, but foreign nationals 
report frequent failures to enforce health and safety standards.

[end of document]


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