Malaysians who   accept or  do not oppose  Saudi Arabia as the model for  an  Islamic state based on Syariah law have lost the right to speak on human rights or condemn  the ISA as the Saudi Arabia justice system is  hundred times worse than ISA

Media Conference Statement 
- launching of the second phase of “No to 911, No to 929, Yes to 1957” People’s Awareness Campaign in Air Itam
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Sunday): Acting PAS President, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and other PAS leaders had repeatedly assured Malaysians, whether in Terengganu or outside, Muslims or non-Muslims, before the enactment of the  Terengganu PAS Syariah Criminal Offences (Hudud and Qisas) Bill  by the Terengganu State Assembly last Monday that the Syariah laws and hudud had long been practised in Saudi Arabia and proved to be effective in maintaining peace and security. 

Hadi said it was  only on “rare occasions” that people convicted of offences are punished under hudud, “may be there would be one or two cases in 10 or more years”. 

Hadi said that there was too much public concentration on the punitive aspects, such as the chopping of hands and whipping, which had obscured the “beauty” of the laws, and asserted that “punishment under the hudud law cannot be meted out on the suspect even if there was a 0.01% of doubt”. 

I confess that I had known very little about the human rights condition or the justice  system in Saudi Arabia, but when the PAS Terengganu State Government ignored the DAP email to withdraw the Hudud and Qisas Bill, and proceeded to enact it although it is against the Malaysian Constitution, violates human rights, discriminates against women, destroys the 1999 Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto and flouts the strong and widespread objection of the civil society, I decided to educate myself on Saudi Arabia following  Hadi’s assurances about Saudi Arabia as a model society and state  for Malaysia. 

It has been a culture shock to me to read the massive literature on human rights and the justice  system in Saudi Arabia available on the Internet, as there are tons of materials in cyberspace describing in great detail  its  deplorable human rights record  and its  “justice system without justice” (title of one Amnesty International report on Saudi Arabia). 

I believe I have read enough about the human rights condition and the “justice system without justice” in Saudi Arabia to say that Malaysians who accept or  do not oppose  Saudi Arabia as the model whether for an  Islamic state based on Syariah law or just as a state have lost the right to speak on human rights or condemn draconian laws like  the Internal Security Act  as the Saudi Arabia justice system is  hundred times more draconian and oppressive  than the  ISA. 

For what they are advocating is in fact to move  Malaysians  from the present half-light of human rights,  justice, freedom and democracy in Malaysia  into the full darkness of the night in Saudi Arabia. 

In the year 2000, Amnesty International (AI)  launched an international campaign to improve the status of human rights in Saudi Arabia, under the slogan “End the secrecy…End the Suffering”, and in the same year, came out with five country reports, with each report detailing different patterns of human rights violations. 

These five damning indictments of gross human rights violations in Saudi Arabia issued during the AI campaign in 2000 were: 

These five AI reports in 2000, together with subsequent AI reports, including Defying World Trends – Saudi Arabia’s extensive use of capital punishment (June 2001)  and Saudi Arabia – Remains a Fertile Ground for Torture with Impunity (April 2002) should be compulsory reading for all Malaysian politicians who want to enter into the debate about democracy, human rights, hudud and syariah laws and an Islamic State.  

My self-education in the past week on the human rights and the justice system  in Saudi Arabia have raised fundamental questions  about the picture painted by Hadi and the PAS leaders, in particular their assertions that Saudi Arabia’s syariah laws and hudud had been  effective in maintaining peace and security;  that hudud punishments are invoked only on “rare occasions”,  “may be there would be one or two cases in 10 or more years” and that hudud punishments like  chopping of hands and whipping “cannot be meted out on the suspect even if there was a 0.01% of doubt”. 

AI said in a 2000 report that over the past 20 years, it had documented patterns of systematic human rights violations which clearly reveals that people who are arrested “find themselves trapped in a criminal justice system that provides them with no information about their fate, allows them no prompt contact with their families or a doctor, and offers them no hope of contacting a lawyer. The system perpetuates a wide range of human rights violations – arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention, the incarceration of prisoners of conscience, torture, secret and summary trials, cruel judicial punishments and executions – which are all facilitated by the state’s policy of secrecy and the prohibition of the right to express conscientiously held beliefs.  Detainees also find themselves at the mercy of a system that offers little respect for human dignity and virtually no hope of redress.” 

Are hudud convictions in Saudi Arabia virtually impossible to secure because they cannot be meted out if there is a 0.01% of doubt and are hudud punishments few and rare, “one or two cases in 10 or more years”

The facts points to a grim and gruesome contrary. 

In its 2000 report, Amnesty International said it had recorded 1,163 executions in Saudi Arabia between 1980 and December 1999. 

The AI said: “The main reasons why so many people are executed are the wide scope of the death penalty, the vague laws that are used to impose it and the defective criminal justice system which allows courts to impose such sentences with few procedural safeguards.  The figures also indicate a rising trend in the use of the death penalty. The average annual number of executions between 1980 and 1986 was 29. The average between 1987 and December 1999 was 73.” 

The Human Rights Watch 2001 Report said that in the first nine months of 2000, at least 104 Saudis and foreigners had been beheaded, “exceeding in nine months the total of 103 that Amnesty International recorded in 1999”. 

The US State Department Human Rights Report 2002 on Saudi Arabia states that the Saudi authorities acknowledged 81 executions during 2001. 

Amnesty International recorded 90 judicial amputations in Saudi Arabia between 1981 and December 1999, including at least five cases of cross amputation (right hand and left foot), but it said the true number is probably much higher.  Such punitive surgery are clearly contrary to international codes of medical ethics such as the UN Principles of Medical Ethics and the World Medical Association’s Declarations  of Geneva (1948) and  Tokyo (1975), a modern equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath. 

These grim understated statistics do not reinforce Hadi’s contention that hudud laws could check crimes because they create the fear of punishment or that it is very difficult for anyone to be punished under the hudud  laws as  prosecutions required 100 per cent proof against the offenders. 

I am prepared to be proved wrong about the deplorable state of human rights and the “justice system without justice” either by Hadi or even by the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Malaysia. 

By stating that the human rights and justice system in Saudi Arabia is hundred times worse than that of Malaysia, I am in no way defending or condoning the gross violations of human rights or abuses in the justice system in Malaysia. 

There must be no let up in the battle to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia, but Malaysians  must not be led up the garden’s path to support a system or model which is hundred times worse  than that currently prevailing in Malaysia.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman