Riyadh- United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson said Saudi Arabia suffered greatly from terrorism targeting its military and security institutions and civilians over the last three decades.
The Special Rapporteur commended the transparency and the courteous, constructive and cooperative way in which the government initiated and facilitated this official visit and his previous working level visit in November 2016, which allowed a frank and open dialogue.
In his letter, Emmerson mentions that Saudi Arabia has faced 1,075 terror plots since 1987, of which 844 had a devastating impact, with 231 thwarted plans. At least 3,178 people were either killed or injured by terrorism during this period.
Emmerson said he was aware of the many security challenges and threats posed by regional instability that the Saudi government has to face on a daily basis, noting massive efforts spent on the prevention of terrorism and the preservation of human life.
The Special Rapporteur is particularly thankful to the heads of all governmental institutions that he met. The Special Rapporteur and his team had the valuable opportunity to hold exchanges of views about government’s efforts in combating terrorism, in particular, with the Minister of Justice, the President of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, the General Director of the General Directorate of Investigation of the Ministry of Interior, the President of the Specialized Criminal Court, the Chairman of the National Society of Human Rights and the President of the Human Rights Commission.
He affirmed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the efforts made on law enforcement in the prevention of terrorism and safeguarding human life. In particular, government sources stressed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to international cooperation and mutual legal assistance, and the introduction of strict money laundering regulation to stem the flow of terrorist financing.
The UN official reviewed Saudi government efforts to alleviate the suffering of victims of terrorism through comprehensive programs involving financial, psychological, and educational and employment opportunities as positive and complementary to counter-terrorism exertions.
As recommended by Emmerson in his framework principles for the protection and promotion of the rights of victims of terrorism, financial assistance, housing, psychological and social support for the victims of terrorism and their families is an integral part of a broad counter-terrorism strategy.
Emmerson expressed admiration towards Saudi efforts to combat extremism, violence and associated ideologies, not only by taking on security measures but also in social, political and economic action.
Emmerson’s letter found the unique, professional, evidence-based and imaginative rehabilitation and re-integration programs designed in the Mohammed Bin Naif Counseling and Care Centre particularly impressive. The center claims an 86 percent non-recidivism rate and its methodology deserves the attention of other states considering the adoption of counter-radicalization programs for convicted offenders.
He was particularly impressed by the conditions of detention in the five dedicated prisons for housing suspects and convicts.
He visited Al Hair and Dhahban prisons, examined the facilities and spoke with both staff and inmates at both institutions. The standard of care, and the conditions of detention in these facilities, including medical and recreational facilities, are amongst the highest in the world.
Generous provision is made for family and conjugal visits, and prisoners are encouraged to remain close to their families, being allowed to attend important family functions and even to marry in prison. Saudi Arabia can rightly be proud of the genuinely rehabilitative nature of the facilities in which it houses prisoners accused of terrorism.