ACPRA Declares Its Full Support
To The Legitimate Demands of Women’s
Sit-In on Front of the Ministry of Interior,
Strongly Condemns Suppressing Freedom of Expression
Which Manifested Itself in Besieging, Arresting, and Detaining
Peaceful Demonstrators in Riyadh Police Department
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Monday, February 7 2011
On Saturday, February 5, 2011, nearly fifty ladies gathered on front of the Ministry of Interior’s building in Riyadh. They were holding signs that say "free our prisoners or try them in a fair public court", They were referring to their fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons who were arbitrarily held in prison under the pretext of "anti- terrorism campaign." They have been imprisoned for several years, even up to a decade, without charges or a fair and public court trial. In many cases, the accused spent long years in prison even after they had served their jail terms, as sentenced by court.
In the light of these squalid conditions experienced by prisoners and the suffering of their families in their daily life, failure of the justice system, failure of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in bringing justice to detainees, continuation of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in denying the defendants of their rights as guaranteed by law, and its insistence on secret trials that lack the most basic standards of justice; this group of female relatives of those detained demonstrated peacefully on front of the "Ministry of repression and detention" to express their refusal of injustice done against their loved ones who are arbitrarily arrested without a proper duo process of the law. Their goal is to draw local and international attentions to this tragedy and the crimes committed against these detainees and their families, which could be classified as "crimes against humanity" because these cruel treatments are structural and systematic. No wonder then that the number of arbitrarily detained individuals due to their political activities reached a staggering figure. According to ACPRA’s estimates, there are nearly thirty thousand political prisoners who are held with neither charges nor court trials. One of the strong evidence that support that estimate is that we rarely find a Saudi family without a relative imprisoned in MOI’s secret prisons.
By issuing this statement, ACPRA wonders what is the form of expressions permitted by the Ministry of Interior? if it suppresses all forms of peaceful expression like demonstrations and sit-ins. Is the Ministry of Interior aware of the size of frustration and pressure suffered by the citizens? Particularly as MOI continues to arrest individuals who express their opinion in a peaceful manner; for instance, on Friday 28th of January 2001, approximately fifty individuals were arrested as they marched in Tahlia Street in Jeddah to protest the poor infrastructure in the wake of the floods that swept the Saudi Arabia's second largest city for the second consecutive year. Moreover, MOI refused repeated requests by several Saudi activists for peaceful protests over the past two years.
ACPRA takes this opportunity to reiterate its demands:
- 1-To allow and permit peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations, regardless to whatever their demands might be, which are civilized methods of expression of opinion in line with international conventions signed and ratified by the Saudi government. ACPRA deplores what MOI described in its publish statement as "their gathering manifests a wrongful behavior."
- 2-Immediate release of all detainees who had practiced their right for peaceful expression, and were arrested on front of the Ministry of Interior on Saturday February 5, 2011. MOI then took the women to the criminal investigation at Riyadh Police Department, and then claimed via a cooperating journalist that all demonstrating women came from the same family, and they may come from the southern region. MOI then claimed that the release of their relatives is for the judiciary to decide, but MOI summoned their male guardians who have to sign a written pledge that their female relatives won’t engage in similar activities as a condition to set the women free. The statement written by the cooperating journalist shows the deliberate deception compare to the statement issued by MOI’s official spokesperson to foreign journalists who claimed that “MOI freed them all.”
- 3-Holding those who ordered their arrest accountable for the illicit decision, and they must be dismissed from their jobs. Furthermore, they even must be tried in a court of law for arresting peaceful demonstrators.
- 4-Immediate release of all detainees who had been tried in a court of law, and they had already spent their prison term.
- 5-Immediate release of all detainees whom MOI were unable to charge, let alone try them in a public court.
- 6-ACPRA calls upon MOI to reconsider its policies in dealing with citizens and expatriates which based on repression, iron fist, ignorance, and restriction of public liberty. This approach is the real cause behind the popular revolt that is now underway in many Arab countries. The trilogy of despotism: oppression, injustice, and corruption led to the fall of Zine Elabidine Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia. The "emergency law" which accompanied by oppression, injustice, and suppressing public freedom prompted Egypt's honorable youth uprising against the embattled Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The wise person will draw listens from others’ fate before it is too late, returning to doing right is better than going too far in falsehood.
The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association