Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court Factsheet

While originally created to clear a backlog of terrorism cases, the SCC now regularly tries members of religious minority groups and individuals who dissent peacefully from the Saudi government’s singular interpretation of Hanbali Sunni Islam. These individuals have been denied access to legal representation, held in prolonged detention, reportedly tortured into confessing, and given excessive sentences including the death penalty. The factsheet details several such cases, including that of Waleed Abu el-Khair, the lawyer of USCIRF religious prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi. The factsheet recommends that the Biden administration determine whether the court and its officials are subject to sanctions or visa bans as a result of these egregious religious freedom violations, and continue to advocate publicly for freedom of religion or belief in Saudi Arabia.

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