Kuwait

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

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The law prohibited torture and ill treatment, although the UN’s Committee Against Torture (CAT) during its third periodic review of Kuwait in July expressed concerns about: “consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment in particular during prolonged detention of persons by police and security forces” in cases relating to terrorism and peaceful protests by human rights defenders and members of minority groups. For example, according to Amnesty International, several defendants in the Imam Sadeq mosque bombing in June 2015 stated in court that they had been “tortured or otherwise ill-treated” in pretrial custody, including beatings, electric shocks and placement in stress positions. The UNCAT also cited allegations of insufficient investigation of torture allegations.

Several persons claimed police or Kuwait State Security (KSS) force members beat them at police checkpoints or in detention. In March 2015 authorities arrested a human rights activist, Nawaf al-Hendal, during a protest at al-Erada Square in front of the National Assembly and charged him with slandering the rulers of a neighboring country and for participating in an illegal rally. Media reports stated police arrested and beat al-Hendal and nine other demonstrators. Subsequently, the government imposed a travel ban on al-Hendal. In March al-Hendal stood trial and was acquitted, along with nine other demonstrators, and freed.

The government stated it investigates complaints against police officers resulting in disciplinary action. Disciplinary actions included fines, detention, and some being removed from their positions or termination. Although the government did not make public all the findings of its investigations or all punishments it imposed, it stated it sentenced a police officer in May to two months’ detention for sending a noncitizen worker to the detention center without cause. The government, responding to a complaint filed by the worker’s mother, investigated the complaint, took disciplinary action against the officer, and ensured the release of the worker form the deportation center. Although the government investigation does not lead to compensation for victims of abuse, the victim can utilize government reports and results of internal disciplinary actions to seek compensation via civil courts.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: The Central Prison Complex housed the country’s three prisons: a men’s prison for pretrial detention or those convicted of minor offenses, another men’s prison for those convicted of more serious crimes, and a women’s prison for those in pretrial detention, convicted, or awaiting deportation. There were approximately 5,400 inmates in the Central Prison. Cells in the male prison held four to 12 persons and cells in the female prison held four to six; inmates reportedly lived in moderately overcrowded conditions. There were reports of overcrowding at the women’s prison.

A nursery complex was provided for female inmates with children under two years of age. Officials stated the prison was not designed to facilitate prisoners with disabilities as, by law, any convict with a significant disability cannot be held in the central prison.

There is a separate detention facility for juveniles up to 18 years of age. The juvenile detention facility contains classroom, vocational workshops, and private meeting rooms for visiting family members. As of September, the center housed 33 juveniles.

The deportation center at Talha, the only one in the country, housed on average 700 persons. The overall detainee population was unknown, although observers reported some overcrowding at times and poor sanitation, mostly the consequence of the age of the facility. Noncitizen women pending deportation were kept at the Central Prison due to lack of segregated facilities at the deportation center.

Administration: There were no serious problems in the administration of the prison and detention center system although ombudsmen were not available to respond to complaints on behalf of prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The Ministry of Interior permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by some nongovernmental observers and international human rights groups and required written approval for visits by local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Authorities permitted staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to visit the prisons and detention centers. The government also allowed local NGOs to visit the prison upon approval from the Ministry of Interior. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights and the Kuwait Association for the Basic Evaluation of Human Rights were allowed to visit prisoners during the year. A government official stated that approximately 70 local and international NGOs visited prisons during the year.

Improvements: In September the government opened a special family visiting facility within the prison complex to allow male and female inmates with good behavior records to spend up to 72 hours with visiting family members in a private setting.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. There were numerous reports, however, that police arbitrarily arrested individuals, principally as part of sustained action against persons in the country illegally.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police have sole responsibility for the enforcement of laws not related to national security, and the KSS oversees national security matters; both are under the purview of civilian authorities at the Ministry of Interior. The armed forces (land forces, air force, and navy) are responsible for external security and are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. The Kuwait National Guard is a separate entity that is responsible for critical infrastructure protection, support for the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and for the maintenance of national readiness. The Kuwait Coast Guard falls under the Ministry of Interior.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over all security forces, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

Police were generally effective in carrying out core responsibilities. There were reports some police stations did not take seriously criminal complaints, especially those of foreigners, and by both citizen and noncitizen victims of rape and domestic violence. In cases of alleged police abuse, the district chief investigator is responsible for examining abuse allegations and refers cases to the courts for trial.

According to the government, during the first five months of the year, individuals filed 655 complaints against the Ministry of Interior, mostly involving investigative law enforcement personnel. Complaints included contesting traffic violations, verbal and/or physical maltreatment, and unlawful detentions. Disciplinary action resulted from 201 of the complaints.

Police responded only to the most serious cases of violence between family members, such as spousal and child abuse, and to emergency calls by domestic workers who reported abuse.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A police officer generally must obtain an arrest warrant from a state prosecutor or a judge before making an arrest, except in cases of hot pursuit or observing the commission of a crime. There were numerous reports of police arresting and detaining foreign nationals without a warrant, primarily as part of the government’s action against unlawful residents. The courts usually do not accept cases without warrants issued prior to arrests. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them and allowed access to their lawyers and family members.

In July the government amended the national detention laws. Police may hold a suspected criminal at a police station without charge for as long as four days for commission of a felony and up to 48 hours for a misdemeanor, during which time lawyers and family members may visit the defendant upon approval from authorities. During detention, authorities permitted lawyers to attend legal proceedings but did not allow direct contact with their clients. The law provides the detained person the right to a prompt judicial determination about the detention’s legality. If authorities file charges, a prosecutor may remand a suspect to detention for an additional 10 days for a misdemeanor and 20 days for a felony. Prosecutors also may obtain court orders for up to six months’ detention pending trial by the judge in the case. There is a functioning bail system for defendants awaiting trial. The bar association provides lawyers for indigent defendants; in these cases, defendants do not have the option of choosing which lawyer is assigned to them. There were no reports of suspects being held incommunicado.

The Ministry of Interior investigates misdemeanor charges and refers cases to the misdemeanor courts as appropriate. The undersecretary in the Ministry of Interior is responsible for approving all administrative deportation orders.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government observed these prohibitions for citizens. There were reports that police during raids arbitrarily detained nonnationals, including some who possessed valid residency permits and visas and who claimed to be bystanders.

Pretrial Detention: Arbitrary lengthy detention before trial sometimes occurred. Authorities held some detainees beyond the maximum detention period of six months. Excessive detention in the deportation center, where there are no maximum time limits on detention prior to deportation, was also a problem, particularly when the detainee owed money to a citizen or was a citizen from a country without diplomatic representation in the country to facilitate exit documents.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees, and those convicted by a court, were able to challenge their detention. In August a prominent bidoon activist convicted of conducting an illegal protest and of assaulting police successfully challenged his detention, resulting in his release pending further adjudication of his case.

The law and the constitution provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence if the judge. The Supreme Judicial Council nominates all prosecutors and judges and submits nominees to the emir for approval. Judges who were citizens received lifetime appointments until they reached mandatory retirement age; judges who were noncitizens held one to three year renewable contracts. The Supreme Judicial Council may remove judges for cause. Noncitizen residents involved in legal disputes with citizens frequently alleged the courts showed bias in favor of citizens. While no legal provisions prohibit women from appointment as judges and public prosecutors, the only path to those positions is through work in the prosecutor’s office. In August the Supreme Judicial Council ruled that women prosecutors would be eligible to serve as judges.

Under the law questions of citizenship or residency status and various provisions of immigration law are not subject to judicial review, so noncitizens arrested, for example, for unlawful residency, or those whose lawful residency is canceled due to an arrest, have no access to the courts. The law subjects noncitizens charged with noncriminal offenses, including some residency and traffic violations, to administrative deportations that cannot be challenged in court; however, noncitizens charged in criminal cases face legal deportations, which can be challenged in court.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair public trial and the judiciary generally enforced this right. The law forbids physical and psychological abuse of the accused. Under the law defendants also enjoy the right to be present at their trial, as well as the provision of prompt, detailed information on charges against them. Criminal trials are public unless a court decides “maintenance of public order” or the “preservation of public morals” necessitate closed proceedings. The bar association is obligated upon court request to appoint an attorney without charge for indigent defendants in civil, commercial, and criminal cases, and defendants used these services. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants and their attorneys generally had access to government-held evidence, but the general public did not have access to most court documents. The Ministry of Justice generally provides defendants with interpreters from the moment charged through all appeals.

Defendants have the right to confront their accusers, to confront witnesses against them, and to present their own witnesses, although authorities did not always allow defendants this opportunity. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal verdicts to a higher court, and many persons exercised this right.

Under the new domestic labor law, domestic workers are exempted from litigation fees. If foreign workers had no legal representation, the public prosecutor arranged for it on their behalf, but with little or no involvement by the workers or their families. When workers received third-party assistance to bring a case, the cases were often resolved when the employer paid a monetary settlement to avoid a trial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were several instances of persons detained for their political views. Throughout the year the government arrested approximately two dozen individuals on charges such as insulting the emir, insulting leaders of neighboring countries, or insulting the judiciary. Most of those arrested were citizens protesting the Saudi-led coalition’s military action in Yemen or criticizing the emir. Others were bidoons advocating for human rights or opposition political figures alleging government corruption. While authorities arrested and released some individuals after a few days, they held others for weeks or months pending trial.

In April the government arrested Salem al-Dousari Abu Refa’a for allegedly issuing offensive statements against the emir. Salem was provided access to legal services, and in November he was sentenced to five years in prison. The government provided limited access for political prisoners to international human rights or humanitarian organizations.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary by individuals or organizations in civil matters regarding human rights violations, but authorities occasionally did not enforce rulings for various reasons, including the influence of involved parties or concern for possible political repercussion. Authorities also occasionally used administrative punishments in civil matters, such as instituting travel bans or deportations. Individuals were able to appeal adverse domestic court decisions to international human rights bodies if they chose to do so.

The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Cybercrime agents within the Ministry of Interior regularly monitored publicly accessible social media sites and sought information about owners of accounts, although foreign-owned social media companies denied most requests for information.

Following the bombing of the Imam al-Sadeq mosque in June 2015, authorities required all citizens to transition to an electronic passport. Citizens were given one year in which to provide a DNA sample at one of the three processing centers. In July 2015 the government passed a DNA law requiring all persons entering the country, including citizens and noncitizens, to submit DNA samples for security purposes. Human Rights Watch criticized the law as a violation of privacy, expressed concern over potential misuse of personal information broadly to track individuals. The United Nations also expressed concern over the “compulsory nature and sweeping scope” of required DNA sampling, and the lack of safeguards and mechanisms for appeal before a court. In October the emir ordered a review of the DNA law to ensure compliance with the constitution, and in November the emir said that the DNA law would only apply to convicted felons.

The law forbids marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men and requires male citizens serving in police or the military to obtain government approval to marry nonnationals. Nevertheless, the government offered only nonbinding advice on such matters and generally did not prevent marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims. According to an official, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prohibited the country’s diplomats from marrying noncitizens without the diplomat being asked to resign.

The government may deny a citizenship application by a bidoon resident based on security or criminal violations committed by the individual’s family members. Additionally, if a person loses citizenship, all family members whose status derives from that person also lose their citizenship and all associated rights.

Qatar

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

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment; the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) investigated three allegations of torture and beatings by security forces in their last report but found no evidence to substantiate those claims.

The government interprets sharia as allowing corporal punishment for certain criminal offenses, including court-ordered flogging in cases of alcohol consumption and extramarital sex by Muslims. On past appeals, courts typically reduced this sentence to imprisonment or a fine. In June a court sentenced a Syrian man to 40 lashes for alcohol consumption and 100 lashes for illicit sex acts, although he eventually received only 50 lashes.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Aside from the Deportation Detention Center (DDC), prison conditions generally met international standards. The 2015 report of the NHRC stated that the committee paid 17 surprise visits to various detention and interrogation facilities across the country in 2015 and concluded that the facilities met international standards. The committee recommended that the Deportation Camp expand and undertake some health and safety improvements at the facility.

Physical Conditions: There were no reported serious shortcomings in the physical conditions provided to those incarcerated in the prison or detention centers.

Administration: No legal statute allows for ombudsmen to advocate for prisoners and detainees.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers and international bodies to all facilities except the state security prison. The government routinely provided foreign diplomats access to state security prisoners at separate locations and did so during the year. Representatives from the NHRC conducted regular visits to all facilities.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government usually observed these prohibitions. There were isolated reports that authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained some individuals. Authorities detained a group of Danish journalists while producing a news report on labor accommodations. Those detained alleged these detentions were arbitrary and intended to interfere with their investigations.

Authorities may detain individuals in the state security prison for indefinite periods under the Protection of Society Law and the Combating Terrorism Law. The government limited detention to two months, however, for all DDC detainees except those facing additional financial criminal charges. The processing time for deportations ranged from two days to 10 months. There were also reports that authorities delayed deportations up to 10 months in cases where detainees had to resolve financial delinquencies before they departed the country.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police and state security forces maintain internal security. State security forces address internal threats such as terrorism, political disputes, cyberattacks, or espionage while the national police are the regular law enforcement body. The army is responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police under the Ministry of Interior, state security forces, which report directly to the emir, and military forces under the Ministry of Defense. The government employed effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

There were no reports of impunity of the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Criminal law requires that persons be apprehended openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official, be charged within 24 hours, and be brought before a court without undue delay, although the law empowers the judge investigating the case to extend the total detention period to six months before the case goes to court. The state security service may arrest and detain suspects for up to 30 days without referring them to the public prosecutor.

The law provides procedures that permit detention without charge for as long as 15 days, renewable for up to six months. The law permits an additional six months’ detention without charge with the approval of the prime minister, who may extend the detention indefinitely in cases of threats to national security. The law allows the Ministry of Interior to detain persons suspected of crimes related to national security, honor, or impudence; in these cases persons detained are generally released within 24 hours or brought before a court within three days of detention. Decisions under this law are subject to appeal to the prime minister only. A provision of this law permits the prime minister to adjudicate complaints involving such detentions. The law permits a second six-month period of detention with approval from the criminal court, which may extend a detention indefinitely with review every six months.

In most cases a judge may order a suspect released, remanded to custody to await trial, held in pretrial detention pending investigation, or released on bail. Although suspects are entitled to bail (except in cases of violent crimes), bail was infrequent.

Authorities were more likely to grant citizens bail than noncitizens. Noncitizens charged with minor crimes may be released to their employer, although they may not leave the country until the case is resolved.

By law in non-security-related cases, the accused is entitled to legal representation throughout the process and prompt access to family members. There are provisions for government-funded legal counsel for indigent prisoners in criminal cases, and authorities generally honored this requirement. Authorities usually did not afford suspects detained under the Protection of Society Law and the Combating Terrorism Law access to counsel and delayed access to family members. The NHRC reported it had evidence that authorities did not refer some individuals arrested under the Protection of Society Law to the public prosecutor.

By law all suspects except those detained under the Protection of Society Law or the Combating Terrorism Law must be presented before the public prosecutor within 24 hours of arrest. If the public prosecutor finds sufficient evidence for further investigation, authorities may detain a suspect for up to 15 days with the approval of a judge, renewable for similar periods not to exceed 45 days, before charges must be filed in the courts. Judges may also extend pretrial detention for one month, renewable for one-month periods not to exceed half of the maximum punishment for the accused crime. Authorities typically followed these procedures differently for citizens than for noncitizens.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government observed these prohibitions.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

Amnesty: In March the emir pardoned poet Muhammad al-Ajami, aka Ibn-al-Dheeb, and released him from prison after serving five years. Al-Ajami received a life sentence in 2011 on charges of insulting the country’s former emir and inciting the public against the ruling family. A 2012 appeal reduced the penalty to 15 years.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the emir, based on recommended selections from the Supreme Judicial Council, appoints all judges, who hold their positions at his discretion. In 2015 approximately 55 percent of the judges were foreign citizens dependent on residency permits. Foreign detainees had access to the legal system, although some complained of opaque legal procedures and complications mostly stemming from language barriers. Foreign nationals did not uniformly receive translations of legal proceedings. Some employers filed successful deportation requests against employees who had pending lawsuits against them, thus denying those employees the right to a fair trial.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial for all residents, and the judiciary generally enforced this right, except for suspects held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law.

The law provides defendants the presumption of innocence, and authorities generally inform defendants promptly of the charges brought against them, except for suspects held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law. In its 2015 annual report, the NHRC called for more transparent trial procedures and highlighted in verdicts issued by various courts significant typographical errors that might mar the fairness and adequacy of these verdicts. Judges give verdicts, and trials are open to the public, but the presiding judge may close the courtroom to the public if the case is deemed sensitive. The defendant may be present at his or her trial.

Defendants are entitled to choose their legal representation or accept it at public expense throughout the pretrial and trial process. In matters involving family law, Shia and Sunni judges may apply their interpretations of sharia for their religious groups. In family law matters, a woman’s testimony or worth is not weighed equally with that of a man. In some cases a woman’s testimony is deemed half of a man’s, and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.

Defense attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases once the government files the case in court. Defendants usually have free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront and question witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have access to government-held evidence and have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the opportunity to give a statement at the end of their trial. Defendants have the right to appeal a decision within 15 days, and use of the appellate process was common.

The Court of Cassation requires a fee to initiate the appeals process. In some cases courts waived fees if an appellant demonstrated financial hardship.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of authorities arresting or detaining individuals based upon political activity during the year.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil remedies are available for those seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations, but there were no cases reported during the year. The law specifies circumstances that necessitate a judge’s removal from a case for conflict of interest, and authorities generally observed these laws. Individuals and organizations may not appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

The constitution and the criminal procedures code prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. Police and security forces, however, reportedly monitored telephone calls, e‑mails, and social media posts. The government prohibits membership in political organizations.

Citizens must obtain government permission to marry foreigners, a matter generally not granted for female citizens. Male citizens may apply for residency permits and citizenship for their foreign wives, but female citizens may apply only for residency for their foreign husbands and children, not citizenship.

Saudi Arabia

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

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There was one allegation that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings within the country. On March 3, Makki al-Orayedh died while in police custody after police detained him on March 1 at a checkpoint in Awamiya. On March 5, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) claimed police tortured al-Orayedh to death. According to ESOHR, authorities claimed al-Orayedh died due to “a psychological state of fear.” Local media did not report on whether authorities investigated his death.

Under the country’s interpretation and practice of sharia, capital punishment can be imposed for a range of nonviolent offenses, including apostasy, sorcery, and adultery, although in practice death sentences for such offenses were rare and often reduced on appeal. The law requires a five-judge appellate court to affirm a death sentence, which then must be unanimously affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Council; defendants are generally able to appeal their sentences. Closed court proceedings in some capital cases, however, made it impossible to determine whether authorities allowed the accused to present a defense or afforded minimum due process rights. Since the country lacks a written penal code listing criminal offenses and the associated penalties for them (see section 1.e.), punishment–including the imposition of capital punishment–is subject to considerable judicial discretion in the courts. In addition, there is no right under the law to seek a pardon or commutation of a death sentence for all crimes. The law of criminal procedure provides that the king may issue a pardon “on pardonable matters” for public crimes only. Such pardons are generally issued annually during the holy month of Ramadan, in advance of which the Ministry of Interior publishes a list of terms and conditions defining eligibility to receive a royal pardon (see also section 1.d.). The stated conditions generally exclude specific criminal categories, for example, those convicted of crimes involving state security. The law of criminal procedure states that a victim’s heirs may grant a pardon for private crimes.

On January 2, authorities executed 47 individuals. Among them was prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr, who was charged with inciting terrorism and sedition, interfering in the affairs of another country, disobeying the country’s guardians, attacking security personnel during his arrest, and meeting with wanted criminals. International human rights organizations claimed al-Nimr was executed because of his sermons criticizing authorities and calling attention to discrimination against Saudi Shia. Local and international human rights organizations noted that his trial before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) lacked transparency and did not adhere to minimum fair trial standards.

On December 6, the SCC handed down initial death sentences to 15 individuals and sentenced 15 others to prison terms for spying for Iran; two additional individuals were acquitted. As of year’s end, the sentences were under appeal. HRW issued a report in May that claimed there were multiple due process violations in the trials of the men, many of whom were reportedly Shia. HRW further claimed that they had been held incommunicado in pretrial detention for a prolonged period without access to legal counsel and that, before and throughout court proceedings, their legal counsel was not able to review the evidence against them.

The government also imposes death sentences for crimes committed by minors. According to accounts from local and international human rights organizations, family members, and local media, at least three individuals executed on January 2–Mustafa Abkar, Ali al-Ribh, and Amin al-Ghamidi–may have been minors when they allegedly committed the crimes for which they were convicted.

On July 27, the SCC in Riyadh sentenced Abdulkareem al-Hawaj to death for crimes he allegedly committed in 2012 at age 16, including “throwing two Molotov cocktails,” “participating in riots that resulted in the shooting of an armored vehicle,” “participating in illegal gatherings,” “chanting against the state,” and using social media “to insult the leaders,” according to a September 9 Amnesty International report. As of year’s end, the sentence was under appeal.

In September 2015 the Supreme Court affirmed the 2014 death sentence for Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, the nephew of Nimr al-Nimr, who was convicted of crimes he allegedly committed when he was 17. Al-Nimr was charged with protesting, making, and throwing Molotov cocktails at police, aiding and abetting fugitives, attempting to attack security vehicles, encouraging others to participate in protests, and involvement with individuals who possessed and distributed ammunition, according to some media sources whose accuracy could not be verified. Human rights organizations reported due process concerns relating to minimum fair trial standards, including allegations that authorities arrested al-Nimr without a warrant, obtained a confession using torture, and repeatedly denied him access to his lawyer during the sentencing and appeals process. In September and October 2015, the Supreme Court upheld death sentences for Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, convicted of crimes allegedly committed when they were 17 and 15, respectively. As of year’s end, these executions had not been carried out.

Executions were sometimes conducted for nonviolent offenses. HRW reported that as of July 27, authorities had executed 13 persons for nonviolent crimes related to drug smuggling.

Suicide bombers conducted a number of attacks throughout the year, killing both civilians and government security forces; Da’esh claimed responsibility for some of those attacks. A January 29 attack on a Shia mosque in al-Ahsa left five dead and 18 wounded. An April 28 attack on a police station, also in al-Ahsa, injured one police officer. On July 4, suicide bombers conducted apparently coordinated attacks in Medina, Qatif, and Jeddah. In Medina a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt outside of the Prophet’s mosque, killing four persons and wounding five. In Qatif three suicide bombers detonated explosives belts outside a mosque but did not harm anyone else in the incident. In Jeddah a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt near a foreign consulate in Jeddah, injuring two police officers.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances (for information on detentions without prompt notification of charges or release, see section 1.d.).

The law prohibits torture and holds criminal investigation officers accountable for any abuse of authority. Sharia, as interpreted in the country, prohibits judges from accepting confessions obtained under duress. Statutory law provides that public investigators shall not subject accused persons to coercive measures to influence their testimony.

There were no confirmed reports of torture by government officials during the year, but numerous prisoners were serving sentences based on confessions they claimed were obtained through torture or mistreatment. Amnesty International, HRW, and other human rights organizations reported cases in which the SCC based its decisions on confessions allegedly obtained through torture and admitted as evidence. The UN Committee against Torture also noted that courts admitted coerced confessions as evidence. According to the committee, SCC judges “repeatedly refused to act on claims made by defendants facing terrorism charges that they were subjected to torture or ill-treatment during interrogations for the purpose of compelling a confession, including in the cases of Fadhel al-Manasif, Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoun, and Abdullah al-Zaher” (see section 1.a.). In 2015 the Supreme Court upheld death sentences for al-Nimr, al-Marhoon, and al-Zaher (see section 1.a.), as well as other Shia activists who claimed that authorities tortured them to obtain confessions. Amnesty International reported that Ali al-Nimr said authorities obtained his confession under torture during interrogation sessions held during six months of pretrial detention in 2012.

The UN committee also reported that complaints of torture and mistreatment by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) were rarely investigated, creating a climate of impunity. On April 10, the cabinet (or Council of Ministers) issued a decree stripping the CPVPV of authority to pursue suspects, ask for their identification, and arrest or detain them.

Former detainees in facilities run by the General Investigations Directorate (the country’s internal security forces, also known as “Mabahith”) alleged that abuse included sleep deprivation or long periods of solitary confinement for nonviolent detainees. Former detainees in Mabahith-run al-Ha’ir Prison claimed that, while physical abuse was uncommon in detention, Mabahith officials sometimes resorted to mental or psychological abuse of detainees, particularly during the interrogation phase. Ministry of Interior officials claimed that rules prohibiting torture prevented such practices from occurring in the penal system. The ministry installed surveillance cameras to record interrogations of suspects in criminal investigation offices, some police stations, and in prisons where such interrogations regularly occurred, such as the ministry’s General Investigations Directorate/Mabahith prison facilities.

Representatives from the governmental Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the quasi-governmental National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), supported by a trust funded by the estate of the late King Fahd, conducted prison visits to ascertain whether torture occurred in prisons or detention centers and maintained permanent branches in eight facilities. Independent institutions did not conduct regular, unannounced visits to places of detention, according to the UN Committee against Torture.

The courts continued to use corporal punishment as a judicial penalty, usually in the form of floggings, whippings, or lashings, a common punishment that government officials defended as dictated by sharia. According to local human rights activists, police conducted the floggings according to a set of guidelines determined by local interpretation of sharia. The police official administering the punishment must place a copy of the Quran under his arm that prevents raising the hand above the head, limiting the ability to inflict pain on the person subjected to the punishment, and instructions forbid police from breaking the skin or causing scarring when administering the lashes.

In February a Saudi appeals court returned a death sentence from the Abha General Court for Ashraf Fayadh, a Saudi resident of Palestinian origin, whom the court had found guilty of apostasy, spreading atheism, threatening the morals of Saudi society, and having illicit relations with women. He was sentenced to death for apostasy because of poetry he wrote was deemed offensive to Islam. The lower court then commuted his death sentence to an eight-year prison term and 800 lashes while maintaining the guilty verdict.

In February the Medina Criminal Court reportedly sentenced a 28-year-old man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism on Twitter, according to the local newspaper al-Watan.

There were no reported cases of judicially administered amputation during the year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions varied, and some did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Juveniles constituted fewer than 1 percent of detainees and were held in separate facilities from adults, according to available information. Although information on the maximum capacity of the facilities was not available, overcrowding in some detention centers was reported to be a problem. Violations listed in NSHR reports following prison visits documented shortages of and improperly trained wardens and lack of prompt access to medical treatment when requested. Some detained individuals complained about lack of access to adequate health-care services, including medication. Some prisoners alleged that prison authorities maintained cold temperatures in prison facilities and deliberately kept lights on 24 hours a day to make prisoners uncomfortable.

Human rights activists reported that deaths in prisons, jails, or pretrial detention centers were infrequent. In May local media reported that two female inmates died at a rehabilitation center at the Malaz Prison, but the circumstances of their death were unclear.

Authorities held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. They separated persons suspected or convicted of terrorism offenses from the general population but held them in similar facilities. Activists alleged that authorities sometimes detained individuals in the same cells as individuals with mental disabilities as a form of punishment and indicated that authorities mistreated persons with disabilities.

Administration: There were multiple legal authorities for prisons and detention centers. Local provincial authorities administered approximately 90 local jails, and the Ministry of Interior administered approximately 20 regional prisons and detention centers. Recordkeeping on prisoners was inadequate; there were reports authorities held prisoners after they had completed their sentences. A Ministry of Interior-run website provided detainees and their relatives access to a database containing information about the legal status of the detainee, including any scheduled trial dates.

Authorities differentiated between violent and nonviolent prisoners, sometimes pardoning nonviolent prisoners to reduce the prison population. Certain prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges were required to participate in government-sponsored rehabilitation programs before being considered for release.

No ombudsmen were available to register or investigate complaints made by prisoners, although prisoners could and did submit complaints to the HRC and the NSHR for investigation. There was no information available on whether prisoners were able to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship or whether authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and treatment and made them public.

Authorities generally permitted relatives and friends to visit prisoners twice a week, although certain prisons limited visitation to once every 15 days, and there were reports that prison officials denied this privilege in some instances. The families of detainees could access a website for the Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Prisons that contained forms to apply for prison visits, temporary leave from prison (generally approved around the post-Ramadan Eid holidays), and release on bail (for pretrial detainees). Family members of detained persons complained that authorities canceled scheduled visits with their relatives without reason.

Authorities permitted Muslim detainees and prisoners to perform religious observances such as prayers, but prison authorities in Mabahith prison facilities reportedly did not arrange for detainees to conduct Friday Islamic congregational prayer services.

HRW reported that activist Khalid al-Umair remained in prison following the completion of his eight-year sentence on October 5. Al-Umair was arrested in 2009 for attempting to protest against Israel’s military operations in Gaza. A Gulf-based NGO reported that, as of November 3, al-Umair was transferred from al-Ha’ir Prison to Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center in preparation for his release; he remained there at year’s end.

Independent Monitoring: No independent human rights observers visited prisons or detention centers during the year. The government permitted foreign diplomats to visit prison facilities to view general conditions in nonconsular cases. In a limited number of cases, foreign diplomats visited individuals in detention, but the visits took place in a separate visitors’ center where conditions may have differed from those in the detention facilities holding the prisoners. The most recent prison visit conducted by an independent human rights organization was a 2006 visit by HRW. In August security officials stated they permitted foreign journalists to visit a security prison in Jeddah during the year. The government permitted the governmental HRC and domestic quasi-governmental organizations, such as the NSHR, to monitor prison conditions. The organizations stated they visited prisons throughout the country and reported on prison conditions. The NSHR monitored health care in prisons and brought deficiencies to the attention of the Ministry of Interior. In 2015 the NSHR documented 422 prison-related complaints, including lack of access to medical care, poor hygiene and sanitation, overcrowding, poor ventilation, and understaffing.

The law provides that no entity may restrict a person’s actions or imprison a person, except under provisions of the law. The law of criminal procedure provides that authorities may not detain a person for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities must inform the detained person of the reasons for detention. Regardless, the Ministry of Interior, to which the majority of forces with arrest powers reported, maintained broad authority in law and in practice to arrest and detain persons indefinitely without judicial oversight, notification of charges against them, or effective access to legal counsel or family. Authorities held persons for months and sometimes years without charge or trial and reportedly failed to advise them promptly of their rights, including their legal right to be represented by an attorney. Under the law detentions can be extended administratively for up to six months at the discretion of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.

The 2014 counterterrorism law provides that an investigatory body may detain an individual accused of any crime under that law for a period of six months and may extend the detention an additional six months. By law, defendants accused of any crime cited in the law are entitled to hire a practicing lawyer to defend themselves before the court “within an adequate period of time to be decided by the investigatory body.”

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The king and the Ministries of Defense and Interior, in addition to the Ministry of National Guard, are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The Ministry of Interior exercises primary control over internal security and police forces. The civil police and the internal security police have authority to arrest and detain individuals. Military and security courts investigated abuses of authority and security force killings. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no confirmed reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year, although the UN Committee against Torture noted that the lack of frequent investigations into abuses created a climate of impunity (see section 1.c.).

The CPVPV, which monitors public behavior to enforce strict adherence to the official interpretation of Islamic norms, reports to the king via the Royal Diwan (royal court) and to the Ministry of Interior. In 2015 the CPVPV had 533 offices throughout the kingdom. In April the cabinet issued regulations severely curtailing the CPVPV’s enforcement powers. The new regulations prohibit CPVPV officers from investigating, detaining or arresting, or requesting the identification of any individual and limit their activities to providing counseling and reporting individuals suspected of violating the law to police or other authorities. Evidence available at year’s end indicated that CPVPV officers were less visibly present and active after implementation of the new strictures.

Ministry of Interior police and security forces were generally effective at maintaining law and order. The Board of Grievances (“Diwan al-Mazalim”), a high-level administrative judicial body that specializes in cases against government entities and reports directly to the king, is the only formal mechanism available to seek redress for claims of abuse. Citizens may report abuses by security forces at any police station, to the HRC, or to the NSHR. The HRC and NSHR maintained records of complaints and outcomes, but privacy laws protected information about individual cases, and information was not publicly available. During the year the Board of Grievances held hearings and adjudicated claims of wrongdoing, but there were no reported prosecutions of security force members for human rights violations. The HRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, provided materials and training to police, security forces, and the CPVPV on protecting human rights.

Officers of the Mabahith also have broad authorities to investigate, detain, and forward to judicial authorities “national security” cases–which ranged from terrorism cases to dissident and human rights activist cases–separate from the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIPP). A 2014 Ministry of Justice decree formalized and reaffirmed the role of the SCC, founded in 2008 to try terrorism offenses, following the promulgation of a counterterrorism law that year.

The BIPP and the Control and Investigation Board are the two units of the government with authority to investigate reports of criminal activity, corruption, and “disciplinary cases” involving government employees. These bodies are responsible for investigating potential cases and referring them to the administrative courts. Legal authorities for investigation and public prosecution of criminal offenses are consolidated within the BIPP; the Control and Investigation Board is responsible for investigation and prosecution of noncriminal cases. All financial audit and control functions are limited to the General Auditing Board.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

According to the law of criminal procedure, “no person shall be arrested, searched, detained, or imprisoned except in cases provided by law, and any accused person shall have the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a representative to defend him during the investigation and trial stages.” By law, authorities may summon any person for investigation and may issue an arrest warrant based on evidence. In practice, however, authorities frequently did not use warrants, and warrants were not required in cases where probable cause existed.

The law requires that authorities file charges within 72 hours of arrest and hold a trial within six months, subject to exceptions specified by amendments to the law of criminal procedure and the counterterrorism law (see section 2.a.). Authorities may not legally detain a person under arrest for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities reportedly often failed to observe these legal protections, and there was no requirement to advise suspects of their rights. Judicial proceedings began after authorities completed a full investigation, which in some cases took years.

The law of criminal procedure specifies procedures required for extending the detention period of an accused person beyond the initial five days. As amended by royal decree in 2013, the law expands the number of individuals empowered to renew pretrial detentions for periods of up to six months to include the president of the BIPP and designated subordinates. The amended text allows authorities to approve official detentions in excess of six months in “exceptional circumstances,” effectively allowing individuals to be held in pretrial detention indefinitely. Another amendment extends from three months to six months the deadline for the BIPP to gather evidence against the accused and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, summons, or detention. This provision is also contained in the counterterrorism law, subject to the approval of the extension by the SCC. Another amendment explicitly allows an individual to represent himself in court.

There is a functioning bail system for less serious criminal charges. Detainees generally did not have the right to obtain a lawyer of their choice. In normal cases the government typically provided lawyers to defendants, although defendants must make a formal application to the Ministry of Justice to receive a court-appointed lawyer and prove their inability to pay for their legal representation. Human rights activists often did not trust the courts to appoint lawyers for them due to concern the lawyer would be biased. The law contains no provision for the right to be informed of the protections guaranteed under the law.

Incommunicado detention was sometimes a problem. Authorities reportedly did not always respect a detainees’ right to contact family members following arrest, and the counterterrorism law allows the Ministry of Interior to hold a defendant for up to 90 days in detention without access to family members or legal counsel. Security and some other types of prisoners sometimes remained in detention for long periods before family members or associates received information of their whereabouts, particularly for detainees in Mabahith-run facilities.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year authorities detained without charge security suspects, persons who publicly criticized the government, Shia religious leaders, and persons who violated religious standards. Saleh al-Ashwan, a member of the Saudi Association for Political and Civil Rights (ACPRA), was detained in 2012 and held without charge until 2016, when the SCC sentenced him to five years in prison and a five-year travel ban, according to human rights organizations. In November the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention renewed its call “for the immediate release of [nine] detainees and the provision of reparations for the harm caused” on the anniversary of the expert panel’s formal opinion that the detentions of human rights activists Sulaiman al-Rashudi, Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdulkareem Yousef al-Khoder, Mohammed Saleh al-Bajadi, Omar al-Hamid al-Sa’id, Raif Badawi, Fadhel al-Manasif, and Waleed Abu al-Khair were arbitrary. The statement also called for “other [unnamed] prisoners being held in similar circumstances” to be freed.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. In the past local unlicensed NGOs, such as ACPRA and the Adala Center for Human Rights, challenged the Ministry of Interior publicly and in court on cases considered to involve arbitrary arrest or detention. The two NGOs ceased operating in 2013 and 2014, respectively, after authorities ordered them disbanded. ACPRA claimed the ministry sometimes ignored judges’ rulings (see section 2.b.).

There was no information available on the percentage of the prison population in pretrial detention or the average length of time held. Local human rights activists knew of dozens of cases and reportedly received regular reports from families claiming authorities held their relatives arbitrarily or without notification of charges.

During the year the Ministry of Interior stated it had detained numerous individuals for terrorist acts. On September 29, local media reported there were 5,277 terror suspects detained by the Ministry of Interior in public security prisons.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are not entitled under the law to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. In the case of wrongful detention, the law of criminal procedure, as well as provisions of the counterterrorism law, provide for the right to compensation if detainees are found to have been held unlawfully.

Amnesty: The king continued the tradition of commuting some judicial punishments. Royal pardons sometimes set aside a conviction and sometimes reduced or eliminated corporal punishment. The remaining sentence could be added to a new sentence if the pardoned prisoner committed a crime subsequent to release.

Authorities did not detain some individuals who had received prison sentences. The counterterrorism law allows the interior minister to stop proceedings against an individual who cooperates with investigations or helps thwart a planned terrorist attack. The minister may also release individuals already convicted on such charges.

The law provides that judges are independent and not subject to any authority other than the provisions of sharia and the laws in force. Nevertheless, the judiciary was not independent, as it was required to coordinate its decisions with executive authorities, with the king as final arbiter. Although public allegations of interference with judicial independence were rare, the judiciary reportedly was subject to influence, particularly in the case of legal decisions rendered by specialized judicial bodies, such as the SCC, which rarely acquitted suspects. Human rights activists reported that SCC judges received implicit instructions to issue harsh sentences against human rights activists, reformers, journalists, and dissidents not engaged in violent activities.

There were some reports during the year of courts exercising jurisdiction over senior members of the royal family. In October multiple media reported that Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, a member of the royal family, was executed after having been found guilty of murder. In November, the Okaz newspaper reported that an unidentified prince was lashed in a Jeddah prison as part of a court-ordered sentence that also included time in prison.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

In the judicial system, there is no case law (in the form of published judicial opinions), no uniform criminal code, and no doctrine of stare decisis that binds judges to follow a legal precedent. The law states that defendants should be treated equally in accordance with sharia. The Council of Senior Scholars (CSS), or the “ulema”, an autonomous advisory body, issues religious opinions (fatwas) that guide how judges interpret sharia.

In the absence of a penal code detailing all criminal offenses and punishments, judges in the courts determine many of these penalties through their interpretations of sharia, which varied according to the judge and the circumstances of the case. Because judges have considerable discretion in decision making, rulings and sentences diverged widely from case to case. Several laws passed in the last decade, however, provide sentencing requirements for crimes including terrorism, cybercrimes, trafficking in persons, and domestic abuse. In December the Ministry of Justice completed a compilation of previous decisions that judges could refer to as a point of reference in making rulings and assigning sentences.

According to judicial procedures, appeals courts cannot independently reverse lower court judgments; they are limited to affirming judgments or returning them to a lower court for modification. Even when judges did not affirm judgments, appeals judges in some cases remanded the judgment to the judge who originally authored the opinion. This procedure sometimes made it difficult for parties to receive a ruling that differed from the original judgment in cases where judges hesitated to admit error. While judges may base their decisions on any of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, all of which are represented in the CSS, the Hanbali school predominates and forms the basis for the country’s law and legal interpretations of sharia. Shia citizens use their legal traditions to adjudicate family law cases between Shia parties, although either party can decide to adjudicate a case in state courts, which use Sunni legal tradition.

According to the law, there is no presumption of innocence. While the law states that court hearings shall be public, courts may be closed at the judge’s discretion. As a result, many trials during the year were closed. Foreign diplomatic missions were able to obtain permission to attend nonconsular court proceedings (that is, cases to which neither the host country nor any of its nationals were a party; diplomatic missions are generally allowed to attend consular proceedings of their own nationals), and they did so throughout the year. To attend, authorities required diplomats to obtain advance written approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the court administration, and the presiding judge. Authorities sometimes did not permit entry to such trials to individuals other than diplomats who were not the legal agents or family members of the accused. SCC officials sometimes prevented individuals from attending trial sessions for seemingly trivial reasons, such as banning female relatives or diplomats from attending due to the absence of women officers to inspect the women upon entry to the courtroom. According to the Ministry of Justice, authorities may close a trial depending on the sensitivity of the case to national security, the reputation of the defendant, or the safety of witnesses.

Representatives of the HRC, the Ministry of Justice, and sometimes representatives of the media regularly attended trials at the SCC.

Amendments to the law of criminal procedure in 2013 strengthened provisions stating that authorities will offer defendants a lawyer at government expense. Human rights activists, however, reported that the process for applying for a court-appointed lawyer was difficult and cumbersome, and many said they did not trust the process due to concern that the lawyer would be biased.

The law provides defendants the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney during the investigation and trial. The counterterrorism law, however, limits the right of defendants accused of terrorism to access legal representation while under investigation and provides for that access only after an unspecified period of time, “before the matter goes to court within a timeframe determined by the investigative entity.” There is no right to discovery or inspection of government-held evidence, nor can defendants view their own file, the minutes from their interrogation, or all of the evidence against them. Defendants may request to review evidence, but the court decides whether to grant the request. Defendants also have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses. The law provides that a BIPP-appointed investigator questions the witnesses called by the defendant during the investigation phase before the initiation of a trial and may hear testimony of additional witnesses he deems necessary to determine the facts. Authorities may not subject a defendant to any coercive measures or compel the taking of an oath. The court must inform convicted persons of their right to appeal rulings.

The law does not provide for free interpretation services. The law of criminal procedure provides only that “the court should seek the assistance of interpreters,” but it does not obligate the court to do so from the moment the defendant is charged, nor does the law specify that the state will bear the costs of such services.

While sharia as interpreted by the government applies to all citizens and noncitizens, the law and practice discriminate against women, noncitizens, nonpracticing Sunni, Shia, and persons of other religions. For example, in most cases a woman’s testimony before a court counts as only half that of a man’s. Judges may discount the testimony of nonpracticing Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, or persons of other religions; sources reported that judges sometimes completely disregarded or refused to hear testimony by Shia.

Among many reports of abuses or violations of due process rights was that of Mohammed Saleh al-Bajady, a political dissident and founding member of ACPRA. Authorities originally arrested al-Bajady in 2011 for his leadership role in ACPRA and for publicly demanding political and legal reforms, including calls for a constitutional monarchy in the kingdom and protection for freedom of expression and association. During al-Bajady’s trial, the court denied observers access to hearings and refused to allow his lawyer access to the courtroom. In 2012 authorities sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment and a subsequent five-year international travel ban. He was released in 2013, but a week later, authorities reincarcerated him. In 2014 authorities announced they would retry al-Bajady before the SCC in relation to his human rights activities. In March 2015 the SCC sentenced al-Bajady to 10 years in prison; a court of appeals reportedly reduced the sentence to eight years, with four years suspended and including time served. In November 2015 al-Bajady was released from prison to a rehabilitation program, then to a Ministry of Interior “rest house,” and fully released on April 7, but with a travel ban until 2020.

On September 5, the SCC sentenced one of ACPRA’s members, Omar al-Sa’id, to seven years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban, on charges for which he had reportedly already been tried, convicted, and served time. In 2013 authorities detained al-Sa’id and the Buraydah Criminal Court initially sentenced him to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy and criticizing the country’s human rights record. The case was returned on appeal to the issuing court and then transferred to the SCC, which ruled in November 2015 to reduce his sentence to two and one-half years, including time already served. He was released in December 2015 upon completion of the sentence. Following his release, the case was reopened, and the SCC subsequently issued the September 5 ruling that increased his sentence from two and one-half to seven years in prison; al-Said remained in detention at year’s end.

In 2014 authorities retried human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair before the SCC, and the court handed down a 15-year sentence, with a subsequent 15-year international travel ban after his release and a fine of 200,000 riyals ($53,300), upheld on appeal in January 2015. Previously, the Jeddah Criminal Court sentenced him to a three-month prison term on a virtually identical set of charges, all of which related to his human rights work, public calls for reform, criticisms of government policies and officials, and his role in founding an unlicensed NGO, the Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The number of political prisoners, including detainees who reportedly remained in prolonged detention without charge, could not be reliably ascertained.

In many cases it was impossible to determine the legal basis for incarceration and whether the detention complied with international norms and standards. Those who remained imprisoned after trial, including persons who were political activists openly critical of the government, were often convicted of terrorism-related crimes, and there was not sufficient public information about the alleged crimes to judge whether they had a credible claim to being political prisoners. The SCC tried political and human rights activists each year for actions unrelated to terrorism or violence against the state.

International NGOs criticized the government for abusing its antiterrorism prerogatives to arrest some members of the political opposition who had not espoused or committed violence and detain them on security-related grounds. High-profile prisoners were generally treated well. Authorities sometimes restricted legal access to detainees; no international humanitarian organizations had access to them.

On December 1, an SCC appellate court increased the initial sentence issued on April 24 for Eissa al-Hamid, a cofounder of ACPRA, from nine to 11 years in prison, followed by a travel ban of 11 years, and levied a fine of 100,000 riyals ($27,000) against him on charges that included “communicating false information to undermine the image of the state,” according to the Agence France-Presse. On May 29, the SCC sentenced ACPRA founding-member Abdulaziz al-Shobaily to eight years in prison, followed by an eight-year travel ban, on charges related to his membership in a human rights organization. On November 3, local media reported that the SCC in Qatif sentenced a citizen to 10 years’ imprisonment and a 50,000 riyals ($13,300) fine for joining ACPRA and sentenced another to 15 years’ imprisonment for sympathizing with Nimr al-Nimr and calling for demonstrations against the government.

In January 2015 authorities administered 50 lashes to Raif Badawi, a nonviolent activist and blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 2014 on charges related to insulting Islam (see section 2.a.). As of year’s end, Badawi remained in Burayman Prison in Jeddah; authorities had not yet carried out the remainder of the lashing sentence.

In 2014 the SCC sentenced Shia activist Fadhel al-Manasif to 15 years in prison and a 15-year travel ban for breaking allegiance with the king and harming the country’s reputation, among other charges, according to media and NGO reporting.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Complainants claiming human rights violations generally sought assistance from the HRC or the NSHR, which either advocated on their behalf or provided courts with opinions on their cases. The HRC generally responded to complaints and could refer cases to the BIPP; domestic violence cases were the most common. Individuals or organizations may petition directly for damages or government action to end human rights violations before the Board of Grievances, except in compensation cases related to state security where the SCC handles remediation. The counterterrorism law contains a provision allowing detainees in Mabahith-run prisons to request financial compensation from the Ministry of Interior for wrongful detention beyond their prison terms.

In some cases the government did not carry out judicially ordered compensation for unlawful detentions in a timely manner.

The law prohibits unlawful intrusions into the privacy of persons, their homes, places of work, and vehicles. Criminal investigation officers are required to maintain records of all searches conducted; these records should contain the name of the officer conducting the search, the text of the search warrant (or an explanation of the urgency that necessitated the search without a warrant), and the names and signatures of the persons who were present at the time of search. While the law also provides for the privacy of all mail, telegrams, telephone conversations, and other means of communication, the government did not respect the privacy of correspondence or communications and used the considerable latitude provided by law to monitor activities legally and intervene where it deemed necessary.

There were reports from human rights activists of governmental monitoring or blocking mobile telephone or internet usage before planned demonstrations. The government strictly monitored politically related activities and took punitive actions, including arrest and detention, against persons engaged in certain political activities, such as direct public criticism of senior members of the royal family by name, forming a political party, or organizing a demonstration. Customs officials reportedly routinely opened mail and shipments to search for contraband. In some areas Ministry of Interior informants allegedly reported “seditious ideas,” “antigovernment activity,” or “behavior contrary to Islam” in their neighborhoods.

The counterterrorism law allows the Ministry of Interior to access a terrorism suspect’s private communications as well as banking information in a manner inconsistent with the legal protections provided by criminal procedure law.

The CPVPV monitored and regulated public interaction between members of the opposite sex. In May local media reported that police, acting on information from the CPVPV, arrested one unrelated couple for traveling together in the same car and another unrelated couple for traveling together on a motorcycle.

In March 2015, in response to a request from Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi for Arab League/Gulf Cooperation Council military intervention, Saudi officials announced the formation of a coalition to counter the 2014 overthrow of the legitimate government in Yemen by militias of the Ansar Allah movement (also known colloquially as “Houthis”) and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Membership in the coalition included the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, and Senegal. The Saudi-led coalition conducted air and ground operations throughout 2015 and, to a more limited extent, between the months of April and August, as a result of a cease-fire agreement that limited air and ground operations during peace talks held in Kuwait. Following the suspension of the talks in August, the coalition resumed military operations.

Killings: NGOs, media, and humanitarian and international organizations reported on what they characterized as disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the Saudi-led coalition.

Coalition airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. For example, an airstrike on a funeral hall in Sanaa, Yemen, on October 8 killed at least 140 persons and wounded more than 500, including children, according to international media reports.

The UN high commissioner for human rights stated that between March 2015 and August 23, an estimated 3,799 civilians had been killed and 6,711 injured as result of the war in Yemen. His office released a report containing examples of possible violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by the coalition that had occurred through June, including those involving airstrikes on residential areas, marketplaces, and medical and educational facilities. On March 15, for example, coalition airstrikes allegedly killed 107 civilians, injured 37 civilians, and destroyed 16 shops in a market in Mustaba district of Hajjah Governorate.

The coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT), established by the government, based in Riyadh, and consisting of military and civilian members from coalition member states, investigated some incidents of airstrikes that reportedly resulted in civilian casualties as well as claims by international organizations that humanitarian aid convoys and infrastructure were targeted by the coalition. On December 7, the JIAT released summaries of reports of five incidents, including the August 15 attack against a Doctors without Borders (MSF) facility in the Abs district of Hajjah Governorate. In August the JIAT released a press statement with summary findings of eight such investigations. The JIAT also issued a press statement on its initial investigation of the October 8 funeral hall airstrike, claiming that a Yemeni party passed the coalition information that inaccurately reported the funeral hall was a military target and recommending that action be taken against those who caused the incident. It recommended that the coalition review its rules of engagement and that families of the victims receive compensation. In addition, the JIAT recommended in two separate incidents an investigation into potential violations of the rules of engagement and accountability for those involved in two other incidents. The JIAT was established by the government to identify lessons and corrective actions and to cue national accountability mechanisms, as appropriate. The JIAT’s investigations had not led to any prosecutions as of year’s end.

Houthi militias and forces allied with former president Saleh fired long-range missiles into or towards Saudi Arabia nearly 30 times between January 1 and December 31, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and media reports. Saudi media reported more than 40,000 projectiles had been launched into Saudi territory from Yemen since March 2015, destroying hospitals, schools, homes, and other infrastructure. In August media reported that authorities in Najran said Houthi-Saleh militias had partially or totally destroyed 1,074 homes and 108 commercial establishments since March 2015. More than 370 Saudi civilians were killed along the Saudi southern border in the same period, according to Saudi media reports.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: There were reports of restrictions on the free passage of relief supplies and of humanitarian organizations’ access to those individuals most in need, perpetrated by all sides in the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition. Some media reported the Yemen government and/or the coalition delayed or denied clearance permits for humanitarian and commercial aid shipments bound for rebel-held Red Sea ports. Other sources reported the Houthi-Saleh militias’ forceful takeover and misadministration of Yemen government institutions led to dire economic consequences–the nonpayment of workers’ wages, unmaintained and unrepaired gantry cranes at ports where aid materiel was offloaded, and allegations of widespread corruption, including at checkpoints controlled by Houthi-Saleh militias–which severely impacted the distribution of food aid and exacerbated food insecurity.

According to an HRW report published in July, coalition airstrikes damaged many factories and structures used for humanitarian and economic purposes during the year. HRW reported that: an airstrike on January 6 damaged a hangar containing food products including rice and sugar at Hudaydah Port; on February 2 and 5, two airstrikes on a cement factory in Amran killed 15 civilians and damaged buildings around the factory; and on August 11 and 12, airstrikes destroyed Aldarejh Bridge, used by the World Food Program to transport approximately 90 percent of its food deliveries for the northern governorates, forcing it to use alternate supply routes. As a result of the conflict, the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorated significantly, with 14.1 million food insecure people and a reported 69 percent of the country’s population requiring humanitarian assistance by the end of the year, according to the UN.

On August 15, a coalition airstrike destroyed an MSF hospital in Hajjah Governorate, which MSF stated killed 19 persons, including one MSF staff member, and injured 24. Later that month MSF announced that it would evacuate its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen because it could not receive assurances that its hospitals would not be bombed again.

For additional details, including additional information on the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen, see the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights for Yemen.

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