01/15/2013, 00.00
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Death penalty and human trafficking hold back Saudi development

A local source talks to AsiaNews about the kingdom's contradictions, fast economic development combined with great backwardness in terms of human rights. Migrant workers represent an urgent problem. In a population of 24 million people, five million are foreigners, victims of organised trafficking.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - "Saudi Arabia has to drop the death penalty" because "to be a worthy country it is not enough to have a growing economy. It also has to have a holistic approach to development," a source in Saudi Arabia told AsiaNews. Anonymous for security reasons, the source spoke about the kingdom, its contradictions, which are often ignored by the international community, including its violations of human and women's rights.

In a country of 24 million, 10 million migrant workers are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. The lack of rules and controls means that some five million of them are complete strangers. "We do not know their names, their qualifications, or which employment agencies recruited them." Usually, "they are minors, without the legal age to migrate and work," the source explained.

"It is a serious issue; one that transcends individual cases" that make to the headlines. Look at Rizana Nafeek's case. The young Muslim maid was executed for allegedly killing an infant. Her fate stands out and shows the need for Saudi Arabia to "try other, more appropriate paths" to judge people who offend.

Despite the fact that the country has tried to show itself to the world under a better light, that of economic success and growth, the need for other paths has caused "a reaction among ordinary Saudis in the past ten years" because of the death penalty, the crackdown on bloggers and activists and human rights violations.

"People feel there is something wrong," the source said. "Although the kingdom is booming economically, something is missing, namely adequate laws and a reformed justice system. Is progress in these domains keeping up with economic progress? The answer is no."

"The religious and fundamentalist sectors are at fault. Everything is controlled by them. There is little left for laws on humanitarian emergencies and related issues."

Making matters worse is the attitude of foreign countries. Instead of touching "hot issues" like the death penalty, they prefer to improve trading relations with the kingdom.

"Once and a while, someone our country is criticised for its abuses. But the time of inducements is long gone. Problems must be raised and confronted directly as soon as possible. Saudi Arabia is not looking towards the future. If nothing is done soon, things will get worse in the next five or six years." (GM)


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