To the custodian of the two holly mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud,
We, the signatories on this document, are your brothers whom once you said to them: “your vision is my project and I consider you to be my soldiers.” Many years ago, they have started like hundreds others promoting civil society and human rights literatures; issues like rights, justice, equality, citizenship, plurality, democracy, empowerment of women, promoting civil means and rejecting violence, tolerance and dialogues, transparency and accountability.
The core idea behind establishing the ACPRA is to promote human rights and civil society awareness within Saudi society as it is the only viable solution to combat extremism, terrorism and violence. We have long waited for a legislation regulating NGOs’ establishment and activities to be promulgated so we can apply for a license to the NGO-organizing commission. However, we are forced to notify you of our intention to establish ACPRA by posting this letter on our website and by directly mailing it to you due to the following reasons:
1. Legislation regulating NGOs has been delayed for more than ten years because of government’s bureaucracy and unwillingness to grant people such fundamental right. Such delay reflects the success of those elements in the government who try to impede reform initiatives you have announced to the Saudi people. These efforts were designated to impede the establishment of a commission to organize NGOs’ activities in order to stifle civil society movements per se.
2. Those who oppose reforms succeed in stifling another attempt by several activists to establish a human rights committee (Saudi Private Human Rights Committee), they sent a letter to the social affairs minister in 2005, and another group from Jeddah sent a similar request for license. However in both attempts the requests have been under review for a number of years so far with no guarantee of granting them permits to act.
3. Another request from a group of thirty activists to establish an NGO to promote civil society culture in the country has been sent to the king in April 13 1996. The petition had been delivered to the office of the prime minister (i.e. the king) and recorded by the number 27755, the response was even worse than the rejection. A top official in the prime minister’s office denied that they ever received such a request although the applicants hold several copies of the receipt slips.
4. The negative stand went further than rejecting and denying the receipt of applications. A group of activists were warned by the assistant minister of interior to forget about their request to the king. Hence, those who impede reforms wanted to deprive people their right to petition the king let alone granting a license for an NGO.
5. A group of Saudi activists submitted a petition to investigate serious human rights violations, one of these was a letter sent to the king on April 14 2007. The signatories of that petition wanted to investigate human rights abuses and hold the ministry of interior accountable for given a blind eye to these systematic violations. Unfortunately, those who opposed reform once again succeeded in impeding the initiative.
6. The government has the rights to oversee and organize NGOs’ activities in the country, but that does not rule out individuals’ fundamental right of association. Hence, if those who oppose reforms succeeded in delaying NGOs’ legislation, that by no means does deprive people of their rights to establish associations. The government’s role in this sphere is restricted to only organize, coordinate and oversee but not to deny individuals their basic rights.
7. The latest trend is that many human rights activists have been falsely accused of perpetrating and funding terrorisms. The conspicuous example is Mr. Suliman Al-Reshoudi, a former judge, attorney and a cofounder of CDLR (the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights) which was established in 1992. Mr. Al-Reshoudi was arrested on February 2 2007 and have been held in solitary confinement until today with no official indictments and no public trials. It is clear evidence that those who impede reforms use religion and anti-terror campaign to not only violate human rights but also to criminalize, discredit, and incarcerate advocates.
8. Once those who oppose reforms heard that a group of local activists are writing this letter, security police started intimidating people by summoning, interrogating and threatening those who want to join the cause. That may explain why we had no option but to rush to announce this declaration because we are afraid that those impeding elements within the government could have thwarted our imitative.
In several occasions you-the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques- have announced that you will be a supporter of justice and rights. This time around, we wish those who oppose reforms do not succeed, through using your name, in depriving activists of their rights to establish this organization. We, civil society leaders and human rights advocates, are your supporter to achieve justice. Our expectations are not only limited to moral support from you but also extends to financial aid to establish this important organization which would help the government to fulfil its goal to combat extremism and violence. This noble goal will not be attainable without promoting justice, social cohesion, equity, human rights, democracy, and their peaceful means.
We are looking forward to hearing your suggestions in establishing our organization.
Founding members of Saudi Civil & Political Rights Association