Saudi Arabia has used a secretive criminal court established to try terrorism cases as "a weapon of repression" to silence dissidents, including some who were sentenced to death and executed, Amnesty International said Thursday.
Riyadh's Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) was established in 2008 to handle terrorism-related cases but has been widely used to try political prisoners. "The Saudi Arabian government exploits the SCC to create a false aura of legality around its abuse of the counter-terror law to silence its critics," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa regional director. "Every stage of the SCC's judicial process is tainted with human rights abuses, from the denial of access to a lawyer to incommunicado detention, to convictions based solely on so-called 'confessions' extracted through torture."
The kingdom is frequently criticized by human rights advocates who accuse it of violently repressing opponents and activists. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) faced intense international scrutiny after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Initially denying and later downplaying the incident as an accidental killing in a fistfight, almost three weeks after the disappearance, Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated action but denied any involvement of the royal family. A Saudi criminal court sentenced five to death for the killing but did not hold any high-ranking officials responsible.