The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who is head of state. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is prime minister and head of government. The 1992 Basic Law provides for the system of governance, rights of citizens, and powers and duties of the government, and it provides that the Quran and Sunna (the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) serve as the country’s constitution. It specifies that the rulers of the country shall be male descendants of the founder, King Abdulaziz (Ibn Saud).
The State Security Presidency, National Guard, and Ministries of Defense and Interior, all which report to the king, are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The State Security Presidency includes the General Directorate of Investigation (mabahith), Special Security Forces, and Special Emergency Forces; police are under the Ministry of Interior. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government agents; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners or detainees; transnational repression against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for alleged offenses by a relative; serious abuses in a conflict, including related to civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure as a result of airstrikes in Yemen; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists and others, and censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; particularly severe restrictions of religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement and residence within the territory of a state and on the right to leave the country; inability of citizens to choose their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government restrictions on domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity; and outlawing of independent trade unions or significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.
In several cases the government did not investigate, prosecute, or punish officials accused of committing human rights abuses, contributing to an environment of impunity. The government prosecuted some officials for corruption, although there were allegations of a significant lack of respect for fair trial guarantees and other human rights abuses or violations, including allegations of torture, in these cases.
Houthi militant attacks from Yemen caused civilian casualties.
For Further Reference
Full U.S. Department of State Human Rights Country Report
U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Country Report
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report Chapter on Saudi Arabia
U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report Country Narrative
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Human Rights Watch World Report Country Chapter
Amnesty International Annual Report Country Chapter
Freedom House Freedom in the World Country Report