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Sunday, 16 April, 2000, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Saudi to set up rights panels

Saudi Arabia has announced it is setting up two committees on human rights.

The Interior Minister, Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, said the decision to form the committees was taken two years ago and was not linked to accusations by Amnesty International of gross violations.

The decision would be formally announced soon, Prince Nayef added, dismissing what he said was an "unjust campaign against the kingdom".


Amnesty claims
Scores of suspected political or religious opponents of the government arrested during 1999
In June 1999, up to 30 Christians arrested after reported discovery of a copy of the Bible
Cruel judicial punishments - such as amputation - continue to be imposed
Amnesty International, based in London, last week called on the UN to break what it described as a "wall of silence" surrounding alleged human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

An Amnesty spokeswoman said it was time the international body put aside political and economic considerations, and publicly scrutinised what she described as Saudi Arabia's appalling human rights record.

Amnesty visit

The interior minister said he was informed by his brother, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, that an official invitation had been given to an Amnesty official.

"We welcome anyone who wants to become acquainted with the facts," Prince Nayef said.

Amnesty had said on Thursday that it wanted to send a delegation to the kingdom.

However, the foreign minister himself appeared to have some reservations about the visit.



Sorry, but we are not about to change our laws

Prince Faisal
"If Amnesty International was seeking the truth and if it informed itself honestly of the truth, we would consider (a visit)," Prince Faisal said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

He said such a visit would not make sense "so long as it continues to use erroneous information as its basis without taking into account our responses."

"We do not consider that we violate human rights, unless one thinks that such rights cannot be guaranteed in Saudi Arabia unless our laws are changed. Sorry, but we are not about to change our laws," he said.

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See also:

17 Mar 00 | Middle East
Amnesty demands Saudi probe
02 Oct 99 | Middle East
Last-minute reprieve for Saudi killer
23 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Amnesty audit criticises arms exports
03 Nov 99 | UK Politics
UK arms exports under scrutiny
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