- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2000

Saudis fight back

The Saudi Arabian Embassy is fighting back against charges of human rights abuses by Amnesty International.

The embassy is specifically challenging Amnesty International to prove it has requested visas to travel to the desert kingdom or asked for a meeting with Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Washington.

Amnesty International last week said in a press release it had applied for visas and is seeking an appointment with Prince Bandar.

"I find it very interesting that Amnesty International would issue a press release to request a visit or a meeting with the ambassador when nobody in the embassy has heard about it," Adel al-Jubier, Prince Bandar's personal assistant, told Embassy Row.

William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, noted that the Saudi government last week responded to the group's recent reports on Saudi human rights practices with an open invitation to visit the country.

"We are ready to visit Saudi Arabia to inspect the country's judicial system," he said.

Amnesty International has been targeting Saudi Arabia in reports, complaining about the kingdom's use of amputations for thieves and decapitation for rapists and murderers. The group also accuses the Saudis of torturing prisoners, a charge strongly disputed by the embassy.

The latest State Department Human Rights Report also criticizes the same practices and charges that the kingdom "commits and tolerates serious human rights abuses."

The report also says, "The [Saudi] government … views its interpretation of Islamic law as its sole source of guidance on human rights."

Mr. Jubier said Islamic law permits amputations and capital punishment for serious crimes but denies using torture. He said Saudi Arabia respects international treaties against torture and has punished prison guards caught abusing prisoners.

He rejected other claims by Amnesty International, which charged that Saudi Arabia fails to provide lawyers for accused prisoners who cannot afford attorneys.

"Amnesty is a noble organization with goals to be commended. However, we respectfully disagree with them as a matter of faith," Mr. Jubier said.

"Amnesty has its view. We have our faith, which we adhere to. If you murder, rape or sell drugs, you will be executed whether Amnesty likes it or not.

"We will not abandon or change our faith because Amnesty International does not like our laws."

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz and Javaid Jabbar, an adviser to military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf for democratic reforms and other national affairs.

• Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who holds a 3:15 p.m. news conference at the Indian Embassy, 2107 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

• Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who visits the National Democratic Institute.

• Laszlo Veszpremy of the Central European University in Budapest, who speaks at a forum on Christianity and the European-Atlantic alliance with invited guests at Georgetown University.

• Roberto Giannetti da Fonseca, head of the Presidency Foreign Trade Chamber of Brazil, who has meetings with officials at the State Department and Small Business Administration.

Tomorrow

• Angus Mackay, deputy minister of justice of the Scottish Parliament.

• John Kirton of the University of Toronto, who addresses a panel titled "Canada and Summitry" at the School of Advanced International Studies.

Wednesday

• Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who meets President Clinton Thursday and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright Friday.

• Daniel Fung, former solicitor general of Hong Kong, who discusses corruption in Asia with invited guests at the School of Advanced International Studies.

• Sunita Narain and Anil Agarwal of India's New Delhi Center for Science and Environment, who discusses global warming and the Third World with guests at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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