HRC moots plan to promote ‘rights culture’ in Saudi Kingdom


The HRC plan includes organizing a number of lectures and seminars, issuing awareness handouts and periodicals for both genders regarding the rights of women, children and workers, especially in the context of Shariah and international agreements.

In its statement, the HRC said it was committed to bringing to light the Kingdom’s efforts in maintaining human rights through abiding by international and bilateral treaties that it has signed. The HRC also outlined its achievements and praised Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s initiative to promote inter-faith dialogue, including a conference held recently at the United Nations in New York.

“This initiative is obvious evidence of the Kingdom’s belief in the importance of dialogue among cultures, religions and various civilizations as the main means to support peace and stability all over the world,” said the HRC in its statement, which included the rejection of “occupation policy, which violates nations’ sovereignty.”

In terms of actions taken inside the Kingdom, the HRC said it intervened in 1,013 cases in the second half of the 1429 AH (April to September 2008). About a fourth of these cases were resolved, the HRC said, while the rest have been either dismissed or are in pending litigation. This number included 131 labor disputes and 199 prisoners’ rights complaints, as well as social complaints (including medical complaints) and financial cases.

The HRC says that the number of complaints has risen 24 percent from the commission’s creation in 2006 to the end of 1428 AH (2007), led by cases from the country’s largest city and capital, Riyadh. The provinces of Makkah (which includes Jeddah and Taif cities), Asir and the Eastern Province — the locations of the Kingdom’s other large metro areas — were the origins of the highest number of resolved human rights complaints.

In September, the HRC said it received a total of about 10,000 cases in three years. HRC President Turki bin Khaled Al-Sudairi said that about half of these cases were referred to other agencies, dismissed for lack of evidence or were outside the jurisdiction of the HRC. He also said the HRC participated in the inspection of 12 domestic shelters (where women are placed when they flee abusive husbands or are involved in other domestic disputes that leave them estranged from their legal male guardians) along with officials from the ministries of Interior, Justice, Labor and Social Affairs.

In the defense of labor rights, the HRC intervened recently in the case of a group of Indian workers who were thrown out of their accommodation by their employer for complaining to the Indian Embassy about their working conditions.

“This is a serious violation of local labor laws for which we have to take immediate action since the victims do not have food and shelter for their daily upkeep,” an official from the commission who did not want to be named told Arab News in September. This case is still ongoing.

The HRC also opened a women’s branch to focus directly with issues pertaining to women and children, which will likely work closely with the new Family Court that the Kingdom is developing as part of its ongoing overhaul of the courts system.

“‘Dignity of women and childhood support’ is the motto of this new wing,” said Wafiqah Al-Dakhil, the newly appointed head of the women’s wing. She added that the aim is to create awareness about the laws pertaining to women and children through campaigns and define rights as established by Islam.

“Our activities would include organizing programs for raising awareness among children and their families on children’s rights; receiving children’s complaints; and providing legal intervention in guardianship, citizenship issues and child abuse cases,” she added. The commission’s website was inaugurated in March in order for the organization to utilize the Internet to collect complaints and other public feedback.

Al-Sudairi also suggested that the HRC would consider placing women on its board of directors.

“As the HRC is a member of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, we are taking urgent steps to finish our second annual report in a way that correctly reflects the organization and its sincerity, which stems from our strong belief in human rights that Islam is deeply concerned with,” Al-Sudairi said in September while announcing the preparation of the report issued last week.


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