by Christoph Wilcke
Returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia, Foreign Secretary David Miliband describes in his blog his experience of a Saudi programme to turn terrorism suspects off violence. Miliband clearly thinks it is a good thing. But his account is incomplete in one important way: the programme is hardly voluntary, and the estimated 1,500-2,000 detainees being re-educated have been detained often for over three years without charge or trial or other legal process.
Saudi Arabia does not have written criminal law setting out terrorism offenses. Current efforts to produce the country's first penal code have not yet come to fruition. When lawyer Sulaiman al-Rashudi and others attempted to sue the Ministry of Interior over the arbitrary detention of these prisoners, the authorities arrested the lawyers in February 2007, also without charge or trial, in violation of Saudi Arabia's procedural law setting a limit of six months on pre-trial detention. When Abdullah and Isa al-Hamid supported a group of women protesting their husbands' arbitrary detention in front of the Buraida prison in July 2007, the authorities arrested, and later sentenced, the al-Hamid brothers. When blogger Fu'ad al-Farhan wrote about the detained lawyers in December 2007, the authorities arrested him, too.
...Miliband would have done well to read the report before endorsing the arbitrary detention of hundreds, if not thousands, in Saudi intelligence prisons.