Saudi Government Blocks Amnesty International’s Website

On July 22, Amnesty International posted a secret draft of a Saudi Arabian anti-terrorism law, titled "Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism." In response, the government of Saudi Arabia has blocked Amnesty International's website.

According to Amnesty International, the new draft law [ar] permits extended detention without trial, with a minimum sentence of ten years for sedition. With authorization from a special court, suspects may be held for a period of 120 days or longer on charges of terrorism. However, the law provides a vague definition of terrorist activities, which range from "harming the reputation of the state or its position" to “destabilizing the security of the society or the stability of the state" and "endangering national unity." The draft law was reviewed by a security committee in June; however, it cannot be confirmed whether or not the law will be officially adopted.

Amnesty International is highly critical of the draft law’s definition of terrorism, claiming it will be used to suppress opposition. In the wake of the revolutions that have rocked the Arab World in 2011, Amnesty alleges that this law "would allow the authorities to prosecute peaceful dissents with harsh penalties as terrorist crime."

According to Global Voices, Saudi Internet users are opposed to the law. Many have tweeted their opinions with the hashtag #SaudiTerrorLaw. For example, Saudis have expressed their fears that, if passed, the law would affect them both online and off:

@maha_alasmri: If this law is applied, a day will come where every Saudi family will have a detainee in prison for expressing his opinion!

@alfarhan: 2011 is our 1984 #Saudi #SaudiTerrorLaw

On July 24, the Saudi Arabian embassy in London responded to Amnesty International's concerns by issuing a press release stating that “Amnesty’s concerns about this law are baseless, mere supposition on their part, and completely without foundation."

A day after the embassy issued its press release and three days following Amnesty’s initial reports on the draft law, the Saudi Arabian government took harsher measures. At 2:15pm GMT on July 25, Global Voices blogged that Amnesty International's website was blocked in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty responded to the blockage by posting to Twitter, first to alert people of the censorship and then to direct them to a republished version of its report:

@amnesty: website reportedly blocked in #SaudiArabia after #Sauditerrorlaw leaked. Read more about controversial law:

@AmnestyUK: Saudi authorities block following our criticism of proposed #SaudiTerrorLaw. We've republished it all here:

As of July 26, Amnesty International's website remains blocked in Saudi Arabia. We will continue to follow this story, and we hope that any users in Saudi Arabia will report on the accessibility of the site to Herdict!