[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jul 15 16:12:38 CDT 2004
Saudi Arabia: Foreign Workers Abused
Torture, Unfair Trials and Forced Confinement Pervasive
(London, July 15, 2004) -- In Saudi Arabia foreign workers--who
comprise one-third of the kingdom's population--face torture, forced
confessions and unfair trials when they are accused of crimes, Human
Rights Watch said today in a report that offers a rare glimpse into Saudi
A new 135-page report, "Bad Dreams: Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant
Workers in Saudi Arabia," provides the first comprehensive look at the
pervasive abuses foreign workers endure in Saudi Arabia. The report also
shows the abysmal and exploitative labor conditions many workers face,
and the utter failure of the justice system to provide redress.
Human Rights Watch documented how foreigners detained in Saudi
Arabia have been denied consular visits and forced to sign confessions
that they could not read. The report includes cases of beheading in which
the embassies and families of the condemned men were not informed of
the executions until after they were carried out.
"Saudi Arabia's troubles run much deeper than the terror attacks that are
claiming the lives of innocent civilians," said Sarah Leah Whitson,
executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North
Africa Division. "The abuses we found against foreign workers
demonstrate appalling flaws in the kingdom=92s criminal justice system as a
whole. If the Saudi government is serious about reform, this would be a
good place to start."
Last year the Saudi government invited a Human Rights Watch delegation
to visit the kingdom for talks with officials, but has not responded to
numerous requests for permission to carry out field research, including
meeting with victims of abuse. The interviews for the report were
conducted mostly in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines with workers
who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia.
The report documents the failure of the Saudi government to enforce its
own labor laws in the face of significant abuses of foreign workers by
"We found men and women in conditions resembling slavery," said
Whitson. "Case after case demonstrates that the Saudis are turning a blind
eye to systematic abuses against foreign workers."
Human Rights Watch also examined gender discrimination, using
information obtained directly from Asian women who had recently
worked in Saudi Arabia. The report highlights the widespread practice of
forced, around-the-clock confinement of women in unsafe conditions.
In one case, some 300 women from India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines
worked 12-hour shifts, six days a week, cleaning hospitals in Jeddah. At
the end of each work day, they were returned to crowded, dormitory-style
housing, with 14 women sharing one small room lined with bunk beds.
The doors to the rooms were locked from the outside, denying the women
any freedom of movement for the two or three years of their contracts.
Human Rights Watch said that forced confinement of workers, in
particular women workers, should be a criminal offense under Saudi law.
The report includes four cases of women who were victims of forced
confinement and sexual abuse, including rape. In all four cases, the
perpetrators--three of whom were alleged rapists--did not face criminal
investigation or prosecution. The report also has information about women
whom Human Rights Watch found in a prison in Riyadh who were serving
sentences for "illegal pregnancies."
"The pervasive gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia=92s legal system,
coupled with law enforcement officials' indifference to women's
complaints, places them at great risk," said Whitson. "Add forced
confinement to this mix, and the danger of sexual violence is only
There are 8.8 million foreigners in Saudi Arabia, Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi
al-Ghosaibi disclosed in May, a figure significantly higher than any that
the government has previously reported. With an indigenous population of
about 17 million, this means that there is almost one foreign resident for
every two Saudi citizens.
The largest expatriate communities in Saudi Arabia include one million to
1.5 million people each from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and another
900,000 each from Egypt, Sudan and the Philippines. There are also
500,000 workers from Indonesia, and another 350,000 from Sri Lanka, the
majority of whom are women.
The report includes over 25 specific recommendations to various Saudi
government officials, including Crown Prince Abdullah, and the ministers
of interior, justice and labor. These include:
*=09Take immediate action to inform all foreign workers in the
kingdom of their rights under Saudi and international law.
*=09Suspend implementation of death sentences for Saudi citizens and
foreigners, until it can be determined independently that torture was not
used and confessions were not coerced. Human Rights Watch opposes
capital punishment in all circumstances.
*=09Halt the arrest and imprisonment of women who become pregnant
voluntarily or because they were victims of rape.
*=09End immediately the forced confinement of workers, impose
substantial penalties on employers who continue the practice, and provide
fair and equal compensation to the victims.
*=09Bring interior ministry practices into conformity with the Vienna
Convention on Consular Relations, which is the international treaty that
establishes the right of consular officials to prompt notification about th=
arrest of their nationals.
The report, "Bad Dreams: Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in
Saudi Arabia," is available at: http://hrw.org/reports/2004/saudi0704/
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