Rights group critical of Saudi policy on NGOs

Aug. 30, 2013 at 11:02 AM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch called on parties to the U.N. Human Rights Council to monitor Saudi Arabia's record on civil organizations as it bids for a seat.

The rights organization said it was frustrated with Saudi Arabia's policies on human rights groups. It said the Sunni-led kingdom regulates non-governmental organizations under a 1990 law authorizing the registration of associations "related to humanitarian services" operating as non-profits.

Human Rights Watch says authorities are refusing to register human rights groups because they don't meet the definition of a charitable organization. Instead, the rights group said, members of the NGO community are subject to prosecution for setting up illegal organizations.

Joe Stork, acting director of Middle East programs at Human Rights Watch, said Thursday the Saudi government needs to adopt a proper associations law that is in line with international standards.

Rights organizations in Saudi Arabia should be able to operate without harassment, he said in a statement Thursday from Beirut.

"As Saudi Arabia openly campaigns for a seat next year on the U.N. Human Rights Council, member states should take notice that a Saudi court has ruled that certain human rights standards are not applicable in the kingdom," he said. "Freedom of association is a bedrock human rights principle, yet it is impossible to exercise that right in Saudi Arabia."

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