By Marwah Adhoob
On August 9, 2021, the Saudi Arabian Anti-Corruption sector, Nazaha, confirmed the arrest of 207 persons for corruption-related charges, including bribery, forgery, and abuse of power in official positions.
The named suspects include individuals that were government employees in the Defense, Interior, Justice, Health, and Education departments. The press release did not name specific individuals and merely listed the departments. The arrests involved investigations into more than 400 individuals that allegedly engaged in criminal and administrative offenses.
The Nazaha said in a statement that the legal proceedings are pending in preparation for court referral.
Corruption has long been an issue in Saudi Arabia, and these arrests were a part of a more extensive campaign to target corrupt entities. In 2017, Prince Mohammed specifically targeted officials in high power capacity, such as princes, businesspersons, public figures, and other elite persons, for their involvement in facilitating corruption in the country.
Previously, in April 2021, the Nazaha also made a sweeping arrest of more than a hundred public officials for alleged corruption involvement and charges.
According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, “The probe recovered over US$100 billion, and resulted in the arrest of 56 members of the royal family.”
Potential Human Rights Concerns
The Human Rights Watch pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s rampant arrests should be done with adequate due process rights and protections. In 2020, Human Rights Watch urged the Saudi authorities to “reveal the legal and evidentiary basis for each person’s detention” and that the detainees should have access to adequate due process rights.
The Deputy Director of the Human Rights Watch in the Middle East, Michael Page, said that the “The fight against corruption is no excuse for flagrant due process violations and preventing people from mounting an adequate defense.” And “Given their track record of abuse, the Saudi authorities should make fundamental reforms to the justice system to ensure that the accused will not be railroaded in unfair legal proceedings,” he continued.
In the 2017 and 2018 arrests, media reports indicated that the Saudi authorities allegedly used physical abuse to compel suspects to turn over assets. Some detainees were in critical condition due to the physical abuse.