Ibrahim Al Mugaiteeb
Letter to then Crown Prince `Abdullah Ibn `Abd al-Aziz al-Saud on the Treatment of Human Rights Activist Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb
July 26, 2005
On June 14, the Office of General Intelligence in the city of Dammam ordered Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb to appear the next day for interrogation. This order was the latest in a series of official measures directed against Mr. al-Mugaiteeb and his family. Mr. al-Mugaiteeb told Human Rights Watch that an intelligence officer had asked him to appear some five weeks earlier and that altogether there had been about 50 previous requests for interrogation in an attempt to intimidate and harass him. Human Rights Watch is also aware of acts of intimidation of Mr. al-Mugaiteeb’s family dating back at least to September 2002.
Mr. al-Mugaiteeb told Human Rights Watch that intelligence officers handcuffed him and forced him to stand throughout the three-hour interrogation session on June 15, despite his bad health.
Mr. al-Mugaiteeb leads a group of human rights activists under the name of “Human Rights First” in Saudi Arabia. He has been instrumental in bringing to light a number of human rights abuses and has been monitoring the trial, conviction and impending appeals ruling of `Ali al-Dumaini, Matruk al-Falih and `Abdullah al-Hamid, as well as the case of their imprisoned lawyer, `Abd al-Rahman al-Lahim. A Riyadh court on May 15, 2005 sentenced the three to harsh prison terms for writing a petition to you calling for constitutional reform which you yourself discussed in a meeting with a number of its authors.
At the conclusion of his interrogation on June 15, Mr. al-Mugaiteeb told Human Rights Watch that an intelligence officer forced him to sign a pledge to refrain from speaking to foreign diplomats and foreign media and to cease all human rights activities, in particular on behalf of the three sentenced petitioners. He signed this pledge in order to gain his release. Human Rights Watch seeks clarification from the Government of Saudi Arabia regarding the nature of Mr. al-Mugaiteeb’s involuntarily signed pledge and the Government’s reportedly widespread practice of obtaining such coerced pledges from detainees in general.
Mr. al-Mugaiteeb informed Human Rights Watch that General Intelligence also has called and harassed his close associates and family members before he himself was being summoned for interrogation on June 14, 2005. He said that a different intelligence officer called his minor son, `Abd al-`Aziz, to General Intelligence headquarters in Dammam and interrogated him about his father’s activities. They also asked him to sign a pledge, in this case to persuade his father to cease his human rights activities. To spare his son further embarrassment at school from being approached by intelligence officers about his father’s activities, Mr. al-Mugaiteeb urged him to sign the document. Nevertheless, Mr. al-Mugaiteeb continues in his legitimate human rights activism. After having failed to intimidate Mr. al-Mugaiteeb himself or through his minor son, General Intelligence officers then began pressuring family members and associates who are senior to Mr. al-Mugaiteeb with phone calls in the middle of the night. Human Rights Watch has received information that the Office of General Intelligence in Dammam is apparently persisting in and even increasing its harassment and intimidation of Mr. al-Mugaiteeb.
The Law on Criminal Procedure in Article 2 states: “No person shall be arrested, searched, detained, or imprisoned except in cases provided by law” and Article 16 states: “Whoever is arrested or detained shall be promptly notified of the reasons for his arrest or detention” The authorities have neither provided Mr. al-Mugaiteeb with any reasons under Saudi law for his detention, nor lodged any criminal charge against him.
Human Rights Watch calls on the Government of Saudi Arabia to cease all harassment of Mr. al-Mugaiteeb, his family and associates. The Government should allow independent human rights activists and organizations to monitor human rights developments in the kingdom and to advocate appropriate changes in government policies.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter.
Sarah Leah Whitson
Middle East & North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch
Cc: HRH Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Ambassador to the United States of America
HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud
Ambassador to the United Kingdom
The following articles/letter provide further information about Mr. Mugaiteeb’s work.
Saudi Reforms Have Not Gone Far Enough
By Ibrahim Al Mugaiteeb
The following excerpts are from the Sunday, April 16, 2006 Wall Street Journal.
Saudi Arabia likes to highlight rights that Islam affords women–but it does not enforce them. Shariah law criminalizes egregious domestic abuse. Judges, however, turn away the few courageous women seeking redress against abusive husbands unless they are accompanied by a male guardian–typically a father more concerned about the family’s reputation than his daughter’s safety.
Most Saudis do not even know their rights. Shariah law is not codified, and judges rarely allow defendants legal counsel in criminal trials. Judges retain inordinate discretion to accept or reject suits, to rule in favor or against, to mete out unequal sentences for the same offense. The government did not even promulgate a code of criminal procedure until 2002. So now citizens have rights to fair, speedy and public trials, including the right to have a lawyer–in theory. In practice, hundreds and perhaps thousands of people rounded up in security crackdowns languish in prison for months and years without charge or trial. Some are guilty only of receiving an unsolicited text message from an exiled opposition figure. For millions of Saudi citizens and foreign residents, the absence of enforceable legal standards means that officials still wield power arbitrarily, and that the rich and powerful remain above the law. Equal protection and consistent enforcement would radically alter the corrupting exercise of power that currently stymies law-abiding Saudis.
Saudis are simply asking their government to spell out and respect their most basic rights–dignity, privacy and security of the person–as enforceable obligations. An independent judiciary and basic due process are key to unlocking reform in Saudi Arabia. Washington, too, could win a lot more Saudi friends if it used its leverage to advocate the rule of law for ordinary men and women.
- Saudi Arabia: slowly opening dialog about human rights: A Saudi commission cites progress on rights awareness. Still, a Human Rights Watch report Tuesday enumerated ongoing abuses, including arbitrary arrests and lack of legal counsel. By Caryle Murphy a Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor March 26, 2008 edition.
- “Saudi activists face long fight for human rights”: by Betsy Hiel. Pittsburg TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Sunday, May 27, 2007.
- Saudi Arabia sees glimmer of reform: by Evan Osnos. Chicago Tribune. March 13, 2005
- Letter of Gratitude: from the families of Dr. Matrook Al Faleh, Mr. Ali Al Domaini and Dr. Abdullah Al Hamed.