Saudi Arabia: Human Rights Activists Being Held in Counterterrorism Reform Centers

Reports reveal that human rights defenders tried under Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism law are also being held in rehabilitation centers created for individuals charged with terrorism offences.

The counterterrorism law, recently expanded in November 2017, targets peaceful dissenters and human rights activists by criminalising freedom of expression and now equates any critique of the King or Crown Prince as an act of terrorism.

In 2014, multiple political activists were tried under the Specialized Criminal Court which was created as part of the Kingdom’s counterterrorism initiative that includes the broad counterterrorism law and rehabilitation centres.

These reform centers include de-radicalization programs that function as indoctrination for extremists to an ideology apart from weapons and fighting abroad which is led by sociologists, psychologists and Islamic clerics.

After serving four-years in prison for founding an unlicensed organisation (the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association) and damaging the kingdom’s image, in 2015 Mohammed AlBajadi, was sent to the Mohammed bin Nayef Center for rehabilitation after being released from prison.

The 2014 and 2017 counterterrorism laws in Saudi Arabia have emboldened the Crown to crackdown on dissidents and hold them without legitimate charges for six-months to a year. Although these reforms are efforts to integrate individuals back into society from engaging with terrorist actions and organizations, they also serve to veil the Kingdom’s crackdown on civil society.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) urges the European Union to investigate the operations of these rehabilitation centers and whether the individuals admitted are adequately charged with terrorism offences.

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