Interfering in Kingdom’s affairs

Interfering in Kingdom’s affairs

Saudi Arabia is known for its silence and use of soft diplomacy, but its silence has limits. If Saudi Arabia’s policy is based on non-intervention in the affairs of other countries then Riyadh views others interfering in its own internal affairs as a “red line.”
This explains the statement that was issued by the Saudi government in response to the multiple provocations that have been made by the Swedish government and its Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. Today, relations between the Kingdom and Sweden have reached its lowest ebb due to Stockholm poking its nose in the Saudi judicial system and issuing provocative statements against it.
This is not the first time that Riyadh has demonstrated that it does not accept any interference in its internal affairs and rejects any encroachment on its sovereign rights, including accusations against the independence and integrity of its judiciary. Saudi officials have always repeated that they have no power over judicial decisions, while confirming that all legal cases heard in Saudi courts, without exception, are dealt with consistently, fairly and without discrimination. Saudi Arabia does not accept, in any way, shape or form, any individual or state moving against it in the name of human rights, particularly as its constitution is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which guarantee human rights.
This issue prompted the Saudi Cabinet to denounce the insulting statements that were issued by the Swedish foreign minister criticizing the provisions of a judicial system, which is based on Islam and insinuations against its positive social foundations. The Saudi government said that Stockholm’s comments “ignore facts and the great progress made by the Kingdom on all levels, including women’s rights in all fields,” including progress in the fields of education, employment, health care and the economy.
We can go further and say that the Swedish position was not just provocative toward Saudi Arabia, but provoked the sentiment of Muslims across the world given that the Kingdom applies Shariah law. More importantly, nobody has authority over judicial decisions in Saudi Arabia except the provision of Shariah law itself.
While in the Cabinet statement on Monday, Saudi Arabia confirmed that “ensuring the independence of the judiciary is an immutable principle and a main basis for protecting and promoting human rights. Saudi Arabia’s judiciary, based on Islamic law, has ensured justice for all, under which all are equal and have the right to litigate and receive their rights. The judiciary in the Kingdom enjoys absolute independence; no authority is above the judiciary but the authority of Islamic law. The freedom of expression is guaranteed for all in the context of Islamic law. Therefore, incorrect allegations should not be invested in cases of personal rights between individuals and take such cases out of their judicial context.”
Saudi diplomacy, which has always followed a policy of “soft power” and particularly toward European states, cannot accept the recent interference by the Swedish foreign minister who commented on the judicial decision issued against blogger Raif Badawi. Riyadh used its powers to retract an invitation that had been issued to the Swedish foreign minister to give a speech before the Arab League in Cairo last month, expressing its dismay at the manner in which some media outlets and international bodies are dealing with the issue of Raif Badawi. At the time, Riyadh confirmed that it does not accept, under any circumstances, foreign interference in its internal affairs, including questions over the independence and integrity of its judiciary.
In response to the latest controversy, Saudi legal expert and head of the Euro Arab Center for Studies Saleh Al-Tayyar said: “Sweden has violated international law by interfering in the judicial affairs of a foreign state. This interference came in response to an invitation for the Swedish foreign minister to give a speech at the Arab League in Cairo being retracted at the request of Saudi Arabia.” “Sweden has breached international law by commenting on a judicial decision issued in another state,” he added. Tayyar also said: “Saudi Arabia respects its international obligations towards human rights, particularly Article II of the UN Charter. Freedom of expression, as well as all other freedoms, is enshrined in the Kingdom, provided that these do not infringe on the freedoms and rights of others.”
He said: “Some human rights organizations, for example, condemn corporal punishment of any sort including the death penalty which is something that exists in the Kingdom . . .But fail to take into account that Saudi Arabia has the only judicial system in the world that grants a defendant every and all means of defense. Death sentences cannot be applied until they are authorized by the highest court, while judgments can even be reserved. Death sentences can only be passed if three presiding judges reach a consensus that the sentence is in accordance with the Qur’an. While the sentence is not carried out until every effort is made to reach an agreement with the family of the victim regarding the payment of blood money.”
He stressed that this series of contingencies ensures that the Kingdom has “the strongest human rights system in the world.” As for dangerous crimes that affect national security, Tayyar said that these have been put in place in order to protect the general public; these laws were only drafted after passing through a succession of legislative committees ensuring their legitimacy and legality.
While Saudi lawyer Ibrahim Al-Bahri said: “Sweden’s intervention in the legislative system of any other state is illegal. International conventions do not grant any state the right to interfere in the judicial system of another state.”
As for Sweden’s announcement that it was cancelling its military cooperation with Saudi Arabia, according to the figures this will hurt Stockholm more than Riyadh. It will not affect Saudi Arabia’s ability to develop its military forces, while Sweden was perhaps seeking to secure a media victory with its announcement in this manner. Despite this, Stockholm will inevitably be the bigger loser with regards to future bilateral business dealings, particularly given the balance of trade between Saudi Arabia and Sweden.
Riyadh reacted strongly to Sweden’s provocative statements and interference in its domestic affairs, while the message has certainly reached all other Western states who might think about interfering in the internal affairs of another state under the pretext of human rights. These states insist on framing human rights issues in the same manner that they are viewed in their own countries, as if every country in the world is obliged to implement the western concept of human rights, without any regard for cultural differences. This is not to mention the double standards regarding the human rights abuses that are taking place in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view