Amnesty slams Saudi abuses in Eastern Province

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Published Monday, May 28, 2012

Amnesty International has condemned Saudi Arabia for its prolonged and systematic crackdown on protesters in the country's Eastern Province.

The UK-based rights group said the Saudi government had deliberately stamped out the peaceful pro-democracy opposition movement in the mainly Shia region.

An uprising broke out in the Eastern Province in February 2011 on the back of the toppling of dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, with thousands taking to the streets to demand democratic reforms.

The conservative Sunni monarchy moved swiftly to silence any dissent, with little condemnation from Western governments.

Amnesty said the state continued to use a variety of repressive measures against protesters including firing those employed by the state, ordering security forces to attack peaceful crowds and encouraging the torture of jailed opposition figures.

The group said the measures taken by Saudi authorities “amount to a pattern of widespread human rights violations against individuals exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in the Eastern Province.”

“There is evidence indicating that, at least with regard to those dismissed arbitrarily from their employment, there is a state policy to commit such violations,” it added.

Saudi Arabia is a notoriously repressive state, with its citizens subject to constant pressure from security forces.

The use of torture inside prisons is widespread and Amnesty condemned the treatment of protesters including Nazir al-Majed, a leading Saudi opposition writer.

“During questioning, Nazir al-Majed was slapped and beaten with closed fists in his face, kicked all over his body and whipped by a hard instrument on his back,” the report said.

“He was forced to stand in a stressful position for up to four hours with his arms raised and tied and his feet shackled. Several times, security men came into his cell, ordered him to sit facing the wall and then slammed his head against the wall.”

Saudi Arabia is Washington's most crucial Arab ally and the largest single producer of oil in the world.

Instability in the ruthlessly autocratic kingdom could lead to a spike in world oil prices, and would come as a strategic blow to US interests in the region.



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