Saudi Arabian ministers meet human rights delegation

27 January 2003
Saudi Arabia has allowed an international independent human rights group to visit the kingdom for the first time and granted meetings with several government ministers. A delegation from New York-based Human Rights Watch arrived in mid-January for a two-week stay to discuss the judicial system and women's rights, and has met with foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, Justice Minister Abdullah al-Sheik and Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz. Human Rights Watch has accused the kingdom's judicial system of depriving suspects of legal rights and imposing long periods of solitary confinement. In December, the organisation issued a strong criticism of the alleged treatment of six Westerners accused of involvement in a series of bombings in the country.

On 20 January, a UN official said that the UN was conducting discussions with the Saudi authorities on a report that the kingdom is obliged to submit detailing its progress on women's rights. Saudi Arabia signed up to the UN convention on ending discrimination against women in September 2001, with the proviso that the clauses must not contradict the teachings of Islam. Women make up about 4 per cent of the country's workforce and are prohibited from working in many professions.

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