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13 Nov, Tuesday
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Human Rights Watch Says Access to Prisons Blocked

HUMAN Rights Watch issued a press statement yesterday about how their delegation that was here in the Kingdom last week were denied access to many detention facilities that they had wanted to visit here.

I blogged about this last week. Look at my Dec. 12 entry below where I have posted a Podcast of an interview I recorded with HRW’s Saudi specialist Christophe Wilcke in Jeddah. Wilcke told me that he and his colleagues were allowed to visit the Al-Hair jail in Riyadh only once, and that too only to see the wing housing prisoners with good behavior. When they asked to return, Saudi officials said they couldn’t.

Wilcke also told me that they asked to visit the deportation centers in Jeddah, where all overstayers are kept before being deported from the Kingdom. They were denied access to those facilties too.

I think the Kingdom is on the right path of respecting human rights and allowing international observers and researchers in. The HRW team told me that they had freedom to go where ever they wanted and to speak to anyone they wanted, as long as they were not behind bars. I think we should allow HRW and Amnesty International more access to our prisoners. If we have nothing to hide, I don’t understand why we allow these activists in and then restrict their access. As HRW members told me, they criticize governments around the globe, including the US one, and they don’t want any country to take their criticisms as an attempt to single them out or embarass them unnecessarily.

Amnesty is sending in a delegation for the first time ever in late January. Hopefully they will be given more unhindered access.