BELGRADE – When it comes to Saudi Arabia, Western countries have been ignoring Riyadh’s notorious human rights record for fear of offending the Saudi government, Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle told Deutsche Welle (DW) in an exclusive interview.
“Western countries have always been notoriously silent on Saudi human rights abuses. Westeners have always been scared of offending the Saudis,” — a US human rights advocate told DW.
But instead of ignoring the horrible violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia, Western countries should take a firm stance against Saudi practices and let Riyadh know that human rights would be an integral part of the way the West would approach Saudi Arabia, Coogle said.
“So, for example, if Germany says: we are not going to sell tanks any more until you clean up your human rights abuses that sends them a message,” Coogle said, giving out an example how Western countries could work to change to improve the human rights record in the Gulf Kingdom.
Since the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 the Saudi government has begun a crackdown on all dissent. According to Coogle, the Saudi authorities have jailed “practically their entire human rights community.”
“The situation is absolutely dismal. Almost all of Saudi Arabia’s independent activists are in jail serving long sentences,” Coogle told DW.
Part of the reason why Saudi Arabia has a poor human rights record is that there is no written penal code. The Saudi justice system is based on the arbitrary decisions of judges, because there is no legal document that tells what a punishment for a certain crime should be. It’s up to the interpretation of individual judges.
The practice of publically beheading people sentenced to the death penalty has been one of the major criticisms against the Saudi government dished out by human rights organizations. Last year, the number was shocking — the Saudi government decapitated 153 people.