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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Analysis: Saudi rough justice
execution
A public execution caught on video in 1996
By Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner

Saudi Arabia has long been the target of criticism over its human rights record.

Western-based organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn both the criminal justice system and the strict punishments it carries out.



Poor migrant workers are most vulnerable to abuse
Saudi Arabia maintains the death penalty by beheading for murderers, rapists and drug smugglers.

Other punishments include amputation for theft and flogging for selling alcohol, which is against the Islamic religion.

Repugnant but effective

Although these practices are repugnant to most Westerners, ordinary Saudis say the system works as it keeps their crime rate down.

But Amnesty International says the system is arbitrary and unfair since wealthy people and Westerners are rarely punished, while those from poor countries have little protection.


rsaf
Billion dollar Saudi arms budget helps mute criticism
African and Asian workers living in Saudi Arabia were outraged when two British nurses convicted of murder in 1997 were allowed to go home.

Their release followed a visit to the country by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Arms industry

Whatever the shortcomings of its justice system, the government of the ruling Al Saud family is seen as a pillar of stability in a volatile region.

Above all, Saudi Arabia is big business. The world's largest oil producer is a huge buyer of arms and other equipment.

It also provides jobs for tens of thousands of Western expatriates.

As long as that equation continues, calls for a probe into the Saudi justice system are likely to remain muted from Western governments.

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28 Mar 00 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia 'buys silence' on abuse
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