Should Liberty be the Price of Safety in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia takes national security very seriously. In 2003, after Al-Qaeda affiliates launched three successful attacks on expatriate compounds and several failed ones on Saudi government facilities, the country cracked down very hard on militants, suspected militants, political activists, dissidents, supporters and basically anyone it wanted to.

The Human Rights Watch recently issued a report claiming that 9000 people were detained, of which 2000-4000 are still in jail. Held without trial, sent to rehabilitation camps and in a few cases actually charged and tried in secret, the process has been mostly opaque and violated both Saudi law and also international law. 991 people had been indicted by October 2008 and a further 323 by July 2009. Sentences ranged from a few months to 30 years for those that were tried.

What is known through anecdotes is that soon after the 2003 attacks there were huge crackdowns on faculty at various Islamic universities in the Kingdom. Professors and students disappeared and the curriculum/language has changed to include “moderation”. Officially, “there is no place for extremism in Islamic University.” Additionally, all imams in mosques around the country have to be Saudi and approved by the government; they are monitored to ensure that they are not teaching hatred (some 3200 have been removed over the past 5 years).

Do national security concerns give nations the right to violate human rights? Clearly Saudi Arabia and USA are birds of a feather in this regard (let us not forget Guantanamo Bay). It is interesting that the American founding fathers certainly did not think so:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
-Benjamin Franklin, "Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor", November 11, 1755

2 Comments

  1. Cookie MonsterAugust 16, 2009

    My question is – what exactly is a human right? If you kept human rights in check, how do you filter out what is allowed or disallowed? Isn’t it the human right of a victim to live in peace, so shouldn’t a potential criminal or person looking to cause harm also consider this?

    These days human rights are quoted willy nilly; if every human right has to be considered before action is to be taken, we will never achieve results like they are being achieved now.

    Reply
  2. seraiAugust 16, 2009

    Arresting a suspect is one thing, keeping them in jail for 5+ years with no charges or legal defense is unjust. If there is no evidence against a person they should not be imprisoned indefinitely.

    Have you seen Minority Report? Did you support the hero or hope he would get caught?

    Reply

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