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Saudi Arabia Continues to Fight Human Rights Organizations

It is almost impossible for human rights organisations to function legally in Saudi Arabia. The absolute monarchy has once again blocked the efforts of Adala Center for Human Rights to legalise its work in the country.

The centre's lawsuit against the Ministry of Social Affairs was recently dismissed, drawing criticism from activists. The Ministry of Social affairs had earlier rejected registering Adala center as an official association when it was newly established in 2011. Their application was rejected because Adala is not a charity organization, the only type of civil society organizations allowed in the Kingdom. The court has found the ministry's refusal compatible with laws and regulations.

Zaid al-Hussain, the vice president of the governmental Human Rights Commission, told Al-Madina that he expects a new civil society law to be issued soon.

Adala's lawyer, Taha Al-Hajji, referred to the United Nation's Universal Periodic Review recommendation in 2008: “Saudi Arabia should guarantee civil society representatives and human rights defenders their rights to establish organizations and exercise their rights to free expression.” “Saudi Arabia responded positively to the recommendation saying that the Kingdom encourages the establishment of human rights organizations,” Al-Hajji told Al-Hayat.

On Riyadh Bureau, blogger Ahmed Al Omran explains:

The three judges presiding over the case said in their ruling that they found MOSA’s refusal to register Adala as a licensed organization compatible with laws and regulations. MOSA has argued that their decision to deny a license to Adala was on the basis that they can only license charities, and that the activities of Adala are not covered by the Ministry’s definition of what is a charity.

The fact that Adala’s principles and goals are based on international laws and accords like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was also of concern to the judges who said these “man-made laws” do not comply with Islamic Sharia.

“Using these man-made laws without reservations as it is evident in the Center’s charter violates Article 7 of the Basic Law of Governance,” the judges said. The Basic Law of Governance serves as a proto-constitution in Saudi Arabia where the uncodified tenets of Islamic Sharia remain the supreme law and judges, most of them trained as clerics, are granted excessive power to issue rulings according to their own interpretation of the law.

The Union for Human Rights:
The Union for Human Rights faced similar circumstances last May. All members were summoned to the bureau of investigations and persecution. There, they were asked to suspend any activities until their union gets licensed or they will face detainment.
Later, the Ministry of Social Affairs rejected their application and asked them to wait for the new civil society law.

On Twitter, activist Dr Madawi Al Rasheed comments on the continuous crackdown on human rights organisations and activists saying [ar]:

The more people's awareness of human rights work increases, the more authorities resort to imprisoning activists to deter others from joining them. But this strategy is doomed to fail on the long run.

The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association:
In March, a judge had ordered the dissolving of the unlicensed Saudi Civil and Political Right Association, ACPRA, in addition to jailing two of its members. Five more members are in jail on various charges that include “breaking allegiance to the ruler and his successor,” “trying to impede the country’s developments” and “speaking with foreign media channels”

Under Saudi law, most forms of association are banned and public assembly is restricted. Human rights organizations have to get a license to operate, but the ministry rarely issues licenses to human rights organisations. The monarchy does not acknowledge basic human rights like freedom of speech. Most of the legal proceedings initiated against human rights activists in the last year have been because they are involved in organisations that “don't have permission” to operate.

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