COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
29 April-17 May 2002
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE
19 OF THE CONVENTION
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture
1. The Committee considered the initial periodic report of Saudi Arabia
(CAT/C/42/Add.2) at its 516th, 519th, 521st and 524th meetings on
8, 10, 13 and 15 May 2002 (CAT/C/SR.516, 519, 521 and 524) and adopted
the following conclusions and recommendations.
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the initial report, although
it regrets the delay in submission and the paucity of information
on the practical enjoyment in Saudi Arabia of the rights conferred
by the Convention. It generally conforms to the Committee's reporting
guidelines. The Committee also welcomes the opportunity to engage
in a dialogue with a large delegation covering many matters arising
under the Convention, which was enhanced by the extensive oral report.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee welcomes the following aspects:
(a) The State party's accession to the Convention against Torture
on 23 September 1997, as well as its accession to several further
core human rights treaties and its expressed intention to ratify the
1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its Protocol. The Committee
also welcomes the State party's expression that its domestic law,
including its components based upon the Shari'a, is capable of giving
full recognition to the rights and obligations contained in the Convention.
(b) Legal developments designed to enhance the rule of law and the
proper administration of justice that have occurred since preparation
of the report, such as aspects of the newly-promulgated Code of Civil
Procedure, Code of Criminal Procedure and Code of Practice for Lawyers.
The Committee commends, in particular, the right of every accused
person to avail himself or herself of the services of a lawyer at
all stages of an investigation and trial guaranteed in the Code of
(c) The State party's expression that its domestic law provides that
no exceptional circumstances, including superior orders, may be invoked
as a defence to a charge of torture, the reassurance that statements
obtained by torture are inadmissible in proceedings, and the oral
assurance that confessions are revocable at any point of proceedings.
The State party's reassurance that corporal punishments are not imposed
upon minors was noted.
(d) The competence of the Board of Grievances to hear allegations
of violations of human rights, and that certain medical facilities
possess appropriate forensic medical expertise for examination of
alleged victims of torture. The Committee welcomes the establishment
of a standing commission to investigate accusations concerning the
subjection of any person to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment during the arrest, detention and investigation
(e) The State party's invitation to the Special Rapporteur of the
Commission on Human Rights on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers
to examine its law, policy and practice in this field.
C. Subjects of concern
4. The Committee is concerned as to the following aspects:
a) While noting the State party's indication that the Shari'a law
expressly prohibits torture, and other cruel and inhuman treatment,
the State party's domestic law itself does not explicitly reflect
this prohibition, nor does it impose criminal sanctions. The Committee
considers that express incorporation in the State party's domestic
law of the crime of torture, as defined in article 1 of the Convention,
is necessary to signal the cardinal importance of this prohibition.
b) The sentencing to, and imposition of, corporal punishments by judicial
and administrative authorities, including, in particular, flogging
and amputation of limbs, that are not in conformity with the Convention.
c) The different regimes applicable, in law and in practice, to nationals
and foreigners in relation to their legal rights to be free from,
and their ability to complain of, conduct in violation of the Convention.
The Committee recalls that the Convention and its protections are
applicable to all acts in violation of the Convention which occur
within its jurisdiction, from which it follows that all persons are
entitled, in equal measure and without discrimination, to the rights
d) Allegations of prolonged pre-trial detention of some individuals
beyond the statutory limits prescribed by law, which heightens the
risk of, and may on occasion of itself constitute, conduct in violation
of the Convention. In this connection, the Committee expresses its
concern at instances of denial, at times for extended periods, of
consular access to detained foreigners. Moreover, the Committee is
concerned at the low degree of judicial supervision of pre-trial detention.
e) Reports of detention incommunicado of detained persons, at times
for extended periods, particularly during pre-trial investigations.
The lack of access to external legal advice and medical assistance,
as well as to family members, increases the likelihood that conduct
violating the Convention will not be appropriately pursued and punished.
f) The requirement of article 100 of the statute of the Directorate
of Public Security for an investigating officer to endeavour "by judicious
means" to ascertain the reasons for an individual's silence. While
the article in question formally proscribes resort to torture or coercion,
such a requirement unjustifiably heightens the risk of conduct in
violation of the Convention.
g) Cases of deportation of foreigners that have been drawn to the
Committee's attention that seem to have been in breach of the obligations
imposed by article 3 of the Convention.
h) The jurisdiction of the Mutawe'en officials to pursue,
inter alia, violations of the moral code and to proscribe conduct
they identify as not conducive to public morality and safety. The
Committee is concerned that the powers of these officials are vaguely
defined by law, and that their activities may violate the Convention.
i) The apparent failure of the State party to provide effective mechanisms
to investigate complaints of breaches of the Convention.
j) While noting the State party's institution of mechanisms for the
purpose of providing compensation for conduct in violation of the
Convention, as a practical matter, compensation appears to be rarely
obtained, and accordingly full enjoyment of the rights guaranteed
by the Convention is limited.
8. The Committee recommends, in particular, that the State party:
(a) Expressly incorporate within its domestic law a crime of torture
in terms that are consistent with article 1 of the Convention;
(b) Re-examine its imposition of corporal punishments, that are in
breach of the Convention;
(c) Ensure that its laws are in practice applied to all persons, regardless
of nationality, gender, religious affiliation or other distinction,
insofar as issues arising under the Convention are concerned;
(d) Ensure that all places of detention or imprisonment conform with
standards sufficient to guarantee that no person is thereby subject
to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
(e) Ensure that its law and practice reflect the obligations imposed
by article 3 of the Convention;
(f) Ensure that all persons who have been victims of a violation of
their rights under the Convention have access, in law as well as in
practice, to the means of obtaining full redress, including compensation,
and that the persons who may be responsible for such violations are
subjected to prompt and impartial investigation, and thereupon punished;
(g) Ensure that its Mutawe'en officials exercise a clear and
precise jurisdiction, in conformity with the Convention and other
applicable rules of non-discrimination, in a manner regulated by law
and subject to review by ordinary judicial authority;
(h) Ensure, in practice, that persons detained in custody are able
to exercise prompt access to legal and medical expertise of choice,
to family members and, in the case of foreign nationals, to consular
(i) Ensure that the composition of the judiciary fully comports to
the standards imposed by the United Nations Basic Principles on the
Independence of the Judiciary;
(j) Ensure that its training of law enforcement personnel includes
the level of education and information on the recognition of the physical
consequences of torture provided to a number of its medical personnel,
consistent with article 10 of the Convention;
(k) Adopt adequate measures to permit the creation of independent
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) developing their activities
in the area of the defence of human rights in general;
(l) Provide data in the next periodic report, disaggregated inter
alia by age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, geography and other
status, on persons who are deprived of their liberty in prisons or
elsewhere, or who are otherwise sanctioned, where they may be vulnerable
to acts in breach of the Convention, and the results of any cases
of prosecution or sanction of police or other officials for acts prohibited
by the Convention;
(m) Consider making the declaration under article 22 of the Convention;
(n) Widely disseminate the Committee's conclusions and recommendations,
in all appropriate languages, in the country.