Saudi Arabia is a constitutional monarchy governed by Shari'a law. The 2005 Constitution of Saudi Arabia comprises three elements: a Basic Law, the Shura (Consultative) Council Law, and the Law of the Provinces. Under the Basic Law, it is stipulated that:
The State shall protect human rights in accordance with Islamic Shari'ah.Art. 26, 2005 Constitution of Saudi Arabia.
Under Article 81 of the Basic Law, it is provided that its implementation "shall not violate the treaties and agreements the Kingdom has signed with other countries or with international organizations and institutions".
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Not party|
|2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
According to the 2001 Law of Criminal Procedure:
A person under arrest shall not be subjected to any bodily or moral harm. Similarly, he shall not be subjected to any torture or degrading treatment.Art. 2, 2001 Law of Criminal Procedure.
Under Article 41, if the owner or occupant of a dwelling refuses to allow a criminal investigation officer free access, or resists such entry, "he may use all lawful means, as may be required in the circumstances, to enter that dwelling." The Law does not, though, regulate the use of force in affecting an arrest or preventing the escape of a suspect or prisoner.
Royal Decree No. 43 of 16 June 1958 provides for a sentence of up to ten years' imprisonment for an official who is found to have engaged in torture or cruel treatment while in office: this includes imposition of exemplary punishment. It further stipulates that anyone who has suffered harm shall have the right to appropriate compensation.
There do not appear to be restrictions on the use of force or firearms in arresting a criminal suspect.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
Both the death penalty and corporal punishment may be applied to a convicted criminal pursuant to a court judgment, in violation of international law.
There is no independent police oversight body in Saudi Arabia.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In 2016, the Committee against Torture expressed its deep concern
at the numerous reports brought to its attention that torture and other ill-treatment are commonly practised in prisons and detention centres in the State party, in particular in branches of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of the Interior and in Al-Mabahith detention centres.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Saudi Arabia, UN doc. CAT/C/SAU/CO/2, 8 June 2016, §7.
There is no regional court established under the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights.
Saudi Arabia has claimed that 1,533 public officials were sentenced for abuse of authority and related offences in 2002-2011, but did not clarify which offences had been sanctioned.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Saudi Arabia, UN doc. CAT/C/SAU/CO/2, 8 June 2016, §7.
On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based journalist and critic of Saudi Arabia's government, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, whereafter he was murdered by senior Saudi officials. The Saudi government claimed the journalist was killed in a "rogue operation" by a team of agents sent to persuade him to return to the kingdom, while Turkish officials said the agents acted on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government.
The Saudi public prosecution said in late September 2018 that a total of 31 individuals were investigated over the killing and that 21 of them were arrested. Five senior government officials were also sacked, including Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmad Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to Prince Mohammed. In January 2019, 11 unnamed individuals were put on trial at Riyadh Criminal Court in connection with Mr Khashoggi's murder, and the public prosecutor sought the death penalty for five of them. In mid-2020, Riyadh Criminal Court commuted the death sentences handed to five of the defendants to 20 years in prison. The prosecution said the verdicts were final and that the criminal trial was now closed.