Friday, April 10th, 2009.
To the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud
In the past few weeks, several media outlets reported a beginning of secret tribunes for hundreds of alleged-Saudi terrorists (991 defendants); for that purpose, several ad hoc security courts have been established under the auspices of the Saudi justice system. The names of the accused, their indictments, their names of judges, exact dates and times of courts should have been announced; however, that did not happen and judges unfortunately went on with absolute secret-court proceedings. The presiding judges may have been under the illusion that justice would be best served under secrecy and they thought that it is within their discretions to try the accused citizens behind closed doors. We have waited for a long time hoping that some other human-right concerned groups would blow the whistle and bring the case to the world’s intention, to be only disappointed by the complete oblivion of Saudi organizations and intellectuals. It seems to us as if the Ministry of Interior decided that those allegedly involved in violent acts or terrorism have no right and anyone who defends them is as guilty as they are, hence their attorneys can easily be accused of being accomplices or traitors.
For these reasons we are calling for public and fair trials because otherwise it is impossible to find justice especially whenever such an authoritarian government is strongly involved in the case; in addition, a clot of secrecy will grant the government carte blanches to pass tough verdicts agonist helpless and powerless defendants. From this scenario, we declare that secret tribunals are not only unjust but also confiscate the basic rights of the accused, hence we contest the legal bases of any rendered judgments that resulted out of these “Security Courts.” Moreover, we also take this opportunity to remind everyone that violence and terrorism can be obliterated by applying injustice, but rather by respecting the rule of law and closely following legal procedures.
We, furthermore, take this opportunity to remind everyone that fair trails have certain measures and procedures that guarantee justice and protect rights, and there are more than twenty justifications that prove our case. The strongest among these reasons is that even if these secret proceedings have violated the fundamental principle of transparency, but have also denied defendants their basic rights as granted by the Islamic jurisprudence, and as prescribed by international conventions particularly the standards for judiciary independence and human rights. The Saudi statute (i.e., Criminal Procedure Law) states that accused individuals have seven basic rights that must be maintained:
During the investigation, the accused shall have the right to seek the assistance of a representative or an attorney. (Article 64)
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. (Article 4)
The Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution shall conduct its investigation and prosecution in accordance with its Law and the implementing regulations thereof. (Article 14)
In cases that require detention for a longer period, the matter shall be referred to the Director of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution to issue an order that the arrest be extended for a period or successive periods none of which shall exceed thirty days and their aggregate shall not exceed six months from the date of arrest of the accused. Thereafter, the accused shall be directly transferred to the competent court, or be released. (Article 114)
An arrested person shall not be subjected to any bodily or moral harm. Similarly, he shall not be subjected to any torture or degrading treatment. (Article 2)
No penal punishment shall be imposed on any person except in connection with a forbidden and punishable act, whether under Shari’ah principles or under the statutory laws, and after he has been convicted pursuant to a final judgment rendered after a trial conducted in accordance with Shari’ah principles. (Article 3)
Court hearings shall be public. The court may exceptionally consider the action or any part thereof in closed hearings, or may prohibit certain classes of people from attending those hearings for security reasons, or maintenance of public morality, if it is deemed necessary for determining the truth. (Article 155)
Court Trials’ publicity is one of the international standards for judiciary independence because it helps impartial judges to withstand pressures and resist possible interventions during court hearings of the accused Persons. Publicity also protects judges and exposes transgressors.
Since political prisoners, in general, should have more rights and neither more harassments nor more tortures, hence the publicity of court hearings would protect, especially political, defendants’ basic rights against a totalitarian government which they oppose,
Since the Saudi justice system does not stem from general role of popular oversight of the nation over its rulers, and since the Saudi judiciary has no independent authority,
Since the Saudi judiciary system has no written laws, legal procedures or precedents for political cases,
Since the Saudi judiciary system constantly abuses human rights and severally punishes activists,
Since secret tribunals are pretexts for confiscating and abusing prisoners’ rights and to cloak tortures,
Since there is no guarantee against extracting confessions through coercion in secret trials,
Since the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution falls under the jurisdictions of the Interior Minister comes as a declaration to the world community that the Saudi Judiciary is neither fair nor just,
Since the Saudi justice system accepts or justifies tortures, and since secret trials will definitely cover up courts’ admittance and ratifications of coerced confessions, and since justice is a comprehensive principle if it’s divided then it will lose its superior value,
Since justice will not be guaranteed unless the judiciary system has oversights of prisons,
Since court hearings publicity limits arbitrary false criminal accusations,
Since the Ministry of Interior has the ultimate discretions vis-à-vis the accused, as it wishes to try him (her) in courts of law or let the defendants languish in prisons without verdicts,
Since secret tribunals, in addition to their flagrant violation of the principle of popular oversights, obscure people’s understanding of the root causes of violence which are political oppressions and congestions; and instead, the authority has resorted to security solutions which deals with the symptoms rather than the root cause. Although deep inside, they know that obliterating violence requires structural political solutions.
These justifications prove beyond reasonable doubts that it’s not within judges’ discretions to turn political trials into security tribunals.
Unfortunately, as the Saudi legal system engages in flamboyant human-right abuses, it at the same time distorts the images of Islamic jurisprudence.
(A 25-page legal memorandum has been attached with the Arabic version of this petition that proves beyond any reasonable doubts that secret-court trials are building blocks in the structure of a police state as the root cause of extremism, violence, and terrorism)
Recommendations and Demands:
First: We ask the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques to put his words “I’ll smash the head of transgression by the sword of justice” into actions, by establishing a practical and institutional due process that guarantees fair court trails for all prisoners, especially the aforementioned seven basic rights. The state must adhere to clear and specific standards of principles- as prescribed in the Islamic jurisprudence, practiced in constitutional countries, and defined by scholars of political sociology- to reach a clear definition of political crimes, anti-state rebellious warfare, and a judicial and practical due process for punishments.
Second: We would like take this opportunity to remind his Majesty that there is an increasing relationship between extremism and official and societal violence. In that note, the advocates of human rights and civic society denounce violence as means to reach or continue a tight grip on power, and would like to emphasize two points:
1. The root cause of terrorism is political reasons: despotism, injustice, human-right abuses, and oppression; and resorting to a religious discourse to sugarcoat politics has driven society toward extremism and violence. This type of mindsets and activities only flourish in dictatorial states.
2. Our emphasis on the denunciation of violence and extremism does not mean they will end by issuing religious edicts because when people become deeply disappointed then society as a whole starts boiling and congesting like a volcano that is going to erupt with no need for any further impetus. Sometimes due to naivety and credulity, people may believe that violence is going to cease but that will never happen unless the state root out the real causes of violence: oppression, injustice, and absence of liberty and freedom. We believe that the carpet would not be pulled from under the feet of violence unless the state adopts a constitution that nurture the growth of civic society institutions, as the only way that leads toward the establishment of a modern and democratic state. As a reminder of a political wisdom which, we are afraid, is applicable to our situation that summarized by a statement by the late American president John F. Kennedy, who warned in early 1960s that: “Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible will make violent revolutions inevitable.”
Therefore, we remind everyone that using police brutalities only results in negligence to other components of violence, hence exaggerating security solutions-without political reforms-will distort peoples’ awareness and ultimately result in swallowing the bitter medicine.
Third: For these reasons, we remind everyone that political reform is the only solution for extremism and violence and we look forward to the establishment of, what advocates called, “the fourth Saudi State” as a beacon for democracy and human rights. We ask his majesty, may God guide us all to the right path, to implement his promised reform initiatives by establishing a modern state built on democracy, justice, dignity, equality, tolerance, pluralism, and citizens’ rights. We ask the following constitutional reforms:
1. Ensuring judiciary independent, as called for by advocates of democracy and human rights, especially the seven criteria of fair court trails namely publicity as effective solutions to limiting violence and counter violence because they are two faces of the same coin.
2. Permission to establish unions, non-government organizations, and other forms of assembly; people must have the rights to engage in cultural, social, economic, scientific, legal, and political associations. This requires a speedy promulgation of NGOs’ regulations.
3. We emphasize Islamic tolerance, equality, and equal opportunity as the only cure of violence, in order to establish the principle of tolerance we must ascertain cultural and political pluralisms.
4. Establishing an elected parliament that ensures people’s oversight over the government.
5. Establishing independent commissions and watchdog groups that have the mandates to mentor and hold any individual, with no exception, accountable.
6. Separating the three authorities, i.e., the executive, judiciary, and legislative branches.
7. Amending the Allegiance Committee’s law by adding a critical article that stresses the rule of the elected body (the parliament) in the process, hence, the choice of the future crown price will be left for the choice of both the Allegiance Committee and the elected parliament. As for the benefits of such a procedure:
A. It limits unhealthy competitions and blocks venues that may lead to overt and covert conflicts.
B. It manifests legitimacy so we would have a practical and workable concept of democratization.
C. It groups both choices of the people and ruling family which will result in political stability and durability of the regime, because alienating the people from the political process would turn the country into a family’s business. To the contrary, enfranchising people would lead to healthy competitions to best served the citizens, strengthen the ruler-people relationships, and it becomes within crown price’s credentials.
D. It will executes the principle of “ who is best fit” as stated in the Saudi Arabia’s Basic System of Governance with accordance to specific standards and applicable procedures, otherwise the “best-fit” concept would be meaningless.
8. Limiting the terms of appointed royal family’s members in government posts by developing procedures to prevent their-direct and indirect-dominance on the kernels of the economy through tight controls over contracts and government’s projects. Moreover, we demand crafting new laws that would ensure equal opportunity, transparency, monitoring, and accountability.
9. We demand that the prime minister should be a commoner to ease accountability and to manifest the principle of circulations of authority similar to what happened in King Saud’s reign and what being practiced in some other constructional monarchies like UK, Jordan and Morocco.
10. Written constitutional laws must be promulgated to ensure and protect basic human rights for an individual and groups; especially political rights, rights to demonstrations and public sit-ins to express their personal sentiments and to publically protest injustice.
Fourth: We ask his Majesty to grant necessary permissions to human-right activists to see and monitor prisons, not to jail and torture the ones who exposed such practices like exactly what had happened to Professor Matrook Al-Faleh or others who tried to do so. The establishment of an independent commission to open cases of human-right abuses, defendants, and prisoners; the commission can also investigate claims and allegations as indicated by information and reports, the latest of which is a statement issued by a protesting group of women in Qassim (a province located 300 km north of Saudi capital, Riyadh) who demanded restitutions for the victims and taking those alleged defendants to courts of law in very transparent and public procedures.
Fifth: We say to the judges you must respect the rule of law, and you must reject secret tribunals because you precisely know what it was built upon and where it will lead to? Couldn’t you stand up against blatant violations of standards for just and fair trials? Don’t you see what independent judges in France, former Yugoslavia, and recently in Pakistan had done to contest injustice? Why are you so afraid of publicity in your courts? Didn’t you render unjust and tough punishments against peaceful advocates of constitution and human rights? Then, why are you so afraid of trying alleged terrorists in open courts?
Sixth: We ask those who are concerned with political reform from every background in our society, human-right advocates, and attorneys to unit their efforts to defend human rights, the allegedly accused, and prisoners regardless to their backgrounds. We demand various government agencies to adhere to international benchmarks of fair trails and imprisonments for any human being, expose those responsible in abuses, and ensue publicity of court hearings. This is the only savior that would ensure perseverance of the society vis-à-vis violence and extremism and counter (i.e., official) violence and extremism.
Seventh: To the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques:
Once more, to ensue against the Ministry of Interior attempts to distort the image and character-assassinate advocates of constitutional reforms and human rights by falsely accusing them of justifying and inciting violence, we would like to emphasize our adherence to peaceful means in our all discourse and deeds. Certainly, we are not in any possible way justifying violence when we pinpoint its causes. We argue here the solutions-in our capacity as partners in this country-in order to present our views in how to obliterate violence, and we can comfortably declare: that no solution to violence and extremism and counter (i.e., official) violence and extremism unless we, first and for most, establish a new constitutional reign. Second, we must allow, encourage, and follow dialogues in the society in order to end political congestions.
Advocates of Constitutional Reforms, Civic Society and human rights:
1. Professor Abdulkareem Yousef Al-Khathar, Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence in Qassim University and Human Right Activist.
2. Dr. Abdulrahman Hamid Al-Hamid, Assistant professor of Islamic Economics and a Human Right Activist.
3. Professor Abdullah H. Al-Hamid, Former Professor of Comparative Literature and Founding member in the Defunct and Banned Committee of Defense of the Legitimate Rights (CDLR).
4. Ayman Mohammed Al-Rashid, Human Right Activist.
5. Abdalmohsen Ali Alayashe, Human Right Activist, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org, Cel. +966553644636, Fax:+96612041170.
6. Fahad Abdulazia Ali AlOrani, Human Right Activist, E-Mail: email@example.com, Cel. +966502566678, Fax:+96614272168.
7. Fowzan Mohsan Alharbi, Human-Right Activist, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cel. +966501916774.
8. Jaleelah Ahmed Alayashe, Human Right Activist.
9. Hashim Abdullah Al-Refai, Human Right Activist.
10. Maha Abdulraham Al-Qahtani, Human Right Activist.
11. Mhana Mohammed Al-Faleh, Human Right Activist.
12. Mohammad Hudijan Alharbi, Human Right Activist, E-mail: email@example.com, Cel.+966507708320.
13. Dr. Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani, Academic and Writer, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cel. +966555464345.
14. Mohammed Mousa Al-Qarni, Human-Right Activist.
15. Sad Abdulaziz Al-Mubark, Human Right Activist.
16. Dr. Shaim Lafi Al-Hamazzani, Professor of Social Sciences, Al-Imam University.
17. Waleed Sami Abualkair, Writer and Legal Researcher, E-mail: email@example.com, Cel. +966567761788.