Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- In light of the expected visits of prisons in Saudi Arabia, the National Association for Human Rights is currently carrying out inspections in a number of Saudi prisons in Medina, Asir and the Northern Borders Province. Inspections so far have taken place in Riyadh and Al-Qasim.
The Saudi Human Rights Association had previously published a report about the state of prisons. They said that the prisons were overcrowded, that some detainees had served their sentences yet were still imprisoned, and that there were some prisoners who had still not had a court hearing.
Legal sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that following the observations by the National Association of Human Rights, the Public Bureau for Prisons had begun improving the state of the affiliated prisons.
Dr Moflah Al-Qahtani who heads the observation committee of the Saudi Human Rights Association stated that the association sent comprehensive reports to the Saudi interior ministry and the Public Bureau for Prisons. The association will also send reports concerning the current and future visits that will take place in the coming months. Al-Qahtani stated that the majority of prisoners who had served their sentences and were yet to be released were foreign workers in the kingdom adding that it is the employers who are responsible for the procrastinating of their employees’ release. He added that Saudi prisons have begun development plans to enlarge prisons and that these developments will take time.
The Saudi Association for Human Rights has cooperated with certain security authorities to research cases and complaints from prisoners. Many prisoners have requested transfers to other prisoners to be nearer to their families and others have demanded that their children be allowed to visit them. A number of these requests have been met.
Al-Qahtani stated that the association is particularly concerned with prisoners of opinion but he has no information on their presence though five had been released in 2005. He added that the association had not received any complaints concerning this matter.
The National Association of Human Rights was established by royal decree on 9 March 2004. The head office of the association is based in Riyadh and there are two offices in Jeddah and Jizan with a third office expected to be built in the Eastern Province. The association had cancelled the membership of a number of its associates who had held official posts elsewhere. These members will resume their membership when their terms are completed in their official posts. The association also withheld the membership of Dr Abdul Qadir Tash who died recently.