International organization: A “repressive” draft law reveals the falsity of Mohammed bin Salman’s promises

On Tuesday, Amnesty International criticized a leaked copy of the first written penal code in Saudi Arabia, describing it as “containing many shortcomings in meeting international human rights standards.”

The organization said in a report it launched on Tuesday, “The draft law reveals the falsity of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s promises to portray his government as progressive and inclusive.”

The report, entitled “Manifesto of Repression,” indicated that “the Saudi authorities did not inform independent civil society of the draft sanctions regime for consultation, while a number of Saudi legal experts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft.”

The 67-page report said, “The draft law dispels the illusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to “implement a real reform agenda.”

The organization stated that the draft law was leaked for the first time in 2022, and that Saudi legal experts confirmed its authenticity.

She added that the Saudi Human Rights Commission denied the validity of the draft law, after the organization sent two letters to it and to the Saudi government to inform them of its analysis. The organizing body informed that the draft law is currently under legislative review.

The legal system in the Kingdom has been based for years on judges’ interpretation of the provisions of Islamic Sharia and has not been written into a written law, making rulings dependent on the discretion of the judiciary, according to Reuters.

In 2021, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced judicial reform plans that would eventually lead to a fully codified law.

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard said, “The Saudi authorities have a critical opportunity to transform their abusive criminal justice system into a system that respects human rights with the codification of the first written penal code.”

She added, “However, our analysis of the leaked draft law reveals that it is a statement of repression that will consolidate human rights violations and suppress freedoms.”

The report pointed out that “the draft law criminalizes the right to freedom of expression, thought, and religion, in addition to criminalizing consensual “illegitimate” sexual relations, homosexuality, and abortion, and does not protect women and girls from gender-based violence.

He added that the leaked draft law also codifies the use of the death penalty, and continues to allow corporal punishment such as flogging.

The organization said that with the draft law currently under legislative review, the authorities still have an opportunity to prove to the world that “their reform pledges are more than just empty promises.”

There was no immediate comment from the authorities in Saudi Arabia on the Amnesty International report.

The Saudi political analyst, Mubarak Al-Ati, had previously told Al-Hurra website, “Saudi Arabia is going through a stage of development in many respects, based on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to modernize and develop in all affairs.”

He pointed out that Saudi law “stipulates the criminalization of everything that threatens the security, stability, and sanctities of citizens and the country.”

He added, “The Kingdom’s vision is based on reform in all aspects, and openness requires greater control and institutionalization in the cultural, social, and tourism aspects.”

The Kingdom has witnessed changes in recent years, including the introduction of reforms that restricted the authority of the religious police there, allowed the establishment of cinemas, and gave women the opportunity to drive cars.

Riyadh was subjected to international criticism due to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, the imprisonment of female activists who participated in campaigns to defend women’s right to drive cars, and the issuance of death sentences or decades-long prison sentences due to posts on social media.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated in an interview with Fox News last September that he wants to implement legal reforms. He said in the interview, “Do we have bad laws? Yes. Are we working to change them? Yes.”

In December, Saudi Arabia introduced its first written civil law, a civil transactions system that aims to create a more stable environment for investors.

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