Saudi Arabia just approved a law which allows judges to detain people indefinitely.
Back in September 2012, a committee within the appointed Saudi Consultative Assembly proposed removing the limit on detention without a court case after it had been a maximum of six months. Back then, the proposal was criticized by human rights advocates because it could legalize the abuses of the so-called War on Terrorism and open the door for a wider crackdown on dissidents. The amendment proposed allows judges to extend the detention infinitely even if no case was filed against the detainee.
On November 22nd, the Saudi king approved this amendment among others turning it into a law which came into effect on Friday, December 6th.
The issue of arbitrary detainment has always incited criticism for the Saudi government. Independent human rights sources say that there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people [ar], who were arrested without a warrant and have not had access to lawyers and a trial. Many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.
The governmental Human Rights Commission held a meeting in which they thanked the King for approving the amendments. Al Riyadh newspaper reported [ar]:
وأشار المجلس إلى أن صدور هذه الأنظمة الثلاثة تؤكد النهج السليم الذي سارت عليه المملكة منذ تأسيسها في ترسيخ دعائم الحق والعدل، موضحاً أن تلك الأنظمة ستحقق، بإذن الله، نقلة جوهرية في مسيرة نظام القضاء الذي كفل حفظ الحقوق وصونها، وستسهم في تطوير أجهزة القضاء.
The board noted that issuing these three regulations confirms that the kingdom has been taking the correct path to promote rights and justice since it was founded. [The board] noted that these regulations will, God willing, radically transform the judiciary which protects rights and they will contribute to improving judicial institutions.
Activist Mohammad al-Abdualkareem explained the consequence of the amendment:
المادة 114 تسمج للقاضي أن يسجن المتهم بدون مدة بحسب ما يراه .فممكن يسجنه5سنوات دون محاكمة ويخرج براءة بدون تعويض #لاللسجن_الإحتياطي_دون_مدة
— محمد العبدالكريم (@alabdulkarim00) December 6, 2013
Article 114 allows the judge to imprison the suspect without any limit as he sees fit. Someone could be imprisoned for five years without a trial and then found innocent without any compensation.
Twitter user Sultan al-Fifi criticized the amendment citing a previous court case in which the judge was very repressive against political activists:
اشتراط أمر قضائي للتوقيف السرمدي ليس ضمانة عند قاضٍ يقول للهاشمي: أنت تستحق السيف لكني خففت عليك وحكمتك ب ٣٠ سنة #لاللسجن_الإحتياطي_دون_مدة
— سلطان الفيفي (@SultanAlfifi) December 7, 2013
Adding a condition of a judge's warrant before infinite detention is not a guarantee when the judge tells [political activist] al-Hashmi: You deserve [to be killed by] a sword, but I commuted the sentence to 30 years in prison.