Saudi anti-terror law ‘may lead to abusive measures’

Amnesty International described the state of freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia as dire, saying a proposed anti-terror law would make matters worse by reinforcing “draconian and abusive” measures.

The measures, if adopted, could engender repression in the name of security, the rights group said in a report released.

Amnesty said the draft law, a copy of which was leaked to the group, indicated peaceful acts of dissent could in future be prosecuted as a “terrorist crime”.

Amnesty suggested the law would allow the kingdom to detain security suspects indefinitely and without trial. It criticised the kingdom’s “vague and broad” definitions of terrorism, ranging from “destabilising society” to “harming the reputation of the state”.

“This opaqueness could be exploited to charge peaceful meetings of a group of people who make political demands or even engage in academic discussions with a ‘terrorist crime’ under this draft law,” it said.

Calling on Saudi authorities to immediately release all prisoners of conscience, Amnesty denounced as “extremely weak” the kingdom’s institutional framework for protection of human rights. Amnesty said when cases were brought to trial, the proceedings were often held behind closed doors and failed to meet international standards of fairness and transparency.

The rights watchdog also mentioned protests in the Eastern Province, but said it did not have enough details to conclude whether security forces had used excessive force in response to what appeared to be violent acts on the part of some.