Questions of Human Rights

Q: What is the Saudi position on human rights?

A: The concept of human rights is dynamic. It has evolved over time, and is still evolving. A century ago, it would have been difficult to find in Europe any evidence of what some people today now insist are basic human rights. Saudi Arabia feels no compulsion to adopt the West's latest version of human rights. Saudi Arabia has its own vision.

Q: But surely there is now a universal vision of human rights, embodied in the Declaration of Human Rights?

A: The Declaration of Human Rights was prompted largely by the West's revulsion at its own atrocities. Nazism and Marxism, both products of Western civilization, presided over the untimely deaths of many millions of innocent human beings. It is encouraging that the West has sought to legislate against such barbarity but it should recognize the particular historical circumstances which have prompted its current views. It should be aware of the danger of bundling together with legitimate universal human rights, rights that are demanded by those espousing a permissive moral philosophy in a largely secular society.

Q: What then, in the Saudi view, are legitimate universal human rights?

A: Every human being is entitled to life, freedom, dignity, justice and security. Such rights are universal. They are the right of people in Saudi Arabia, just as much as they are the right of people in the West. On the other hand, when, for example, someone argues that capital punishment is an abuse of human rights, we are entering the realm of opinion where it is perfectly reasonable to hold a different view. Saudi Arabian opinion is that capital punishment is the most effective way of safeguarding the most basic human right; the right to live. It places a high value on the life of the murder victim and, as evidence of that high value and as a deterrent to others, it exacts a high price from the murderer.

Q: In practical terms, what human rights does the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia guarantee?

A: The Saudi Arabian Constitution guarantees a number of human rights. For example, Article 27 reads: "The State guarantees the rights of each citizen and his family in cases of emergency, illness, disability and old age." Article 28 imposes on the State the duty of providing "job opportunities for whoever is capable of working". Article 30 obliges the State "to provide education and fight illiteracy". Article 31 provides for universal healthcare in the Kingdom. Article 35 guarantees that "no one shall be arrested, imprisoned or have their actions restricted except in cases specified by the law". Article 37 proclaims the sanctity of the home. Article 40 declares; "The state protects human rights in accordance with the Shari'ah".

These obligations on the State, underpinned by the teachings and the truth of Islam, provide a solid basis for the protection of human rights in the Kingdom.

See also: International Symposium on Human Rights, 2000

Main reference point: Issues

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