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ICC Note: ICC was briefed by US government officials earlier in the year about the formation of this new Saudi human rights commission as well as other possible upcoming Saudi reforms. We aren’t terribly optimistic considering the history of Saudi promises in regards to religious freedom but we will keep an eye on things and continue to report on arrests and threats against the underground Church.

Human Rights Watch starts work in Saudi Arabia

For the full story, go to Reuters. A delegation from the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has arrived in Saudi Arabia (Dec. 4) on the first extensive fact-finding mission by such a group in the conservative Muslim country.

Delegation members told a gathering of prominent Saudis and foreign diplomats late on Sunday that they would spend three weeks interviewing government officials, organizations and individuals.

The main issues they will focus on include the criminal justice system, political rights, the status of women and foreign worker rights.

“We hope we can encourage a process of change,” HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said. “The government seems, at least at the rhetorical level, interested in reform.”

Saudi Arabia , a key U.S. ally and the world’s biggest oil producer, has embarked on a cautious reform program under King Abdullah who came to power last year. He set up a Human Rights Commission in September 2005.
Earlier this year the New York-based rights group branded a number of countries including Saudi Arabia “spoilers” on the new United Nations Human Rights Council based in Geneva .