Saudi Arabia must reform ‘unacceptably broad’ counter-terrorism law

Women can soon benefit from some government services without needing permission from a male guardian, reports suggest.In 2014, Saudi Arabia issued a law that allows the kingdom to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent by deeming these as acts that could undermine national security.Under the guardianship system, women must have a permission of a male relative to marry, travel overseas, obtain a passport, exit prison, and to carry out a range of other activities, including renting an apartment and filing legal claims. The measures would allow women greater access to government services without subjecting them to the approval of a male relative.The new order is not clear yet and does not state under what circumstances a woman should or should not obtain the consent of her guardian for services provided to her, said Saudi writer and women rights advocate Abdullah Al-Alami.Saudi Arabia has been accused of using anti-terror laws to suppress free expression and failing to carry out independent inquiries into its Yemen bombing campaign in a hard-hitting report published on Thursday by the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights. “‘Women are independent and can take care of themselves”.”I strongly condemn the use of counter-terrorism legislation and penal sanctions against individuals peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression”, he told reporters in the kingdom.”Maybe they will just reduce it”, she said. Women in the country have not yet been granted the right to drive, but many believe a decision to change that might be coming soon.The decree is not a total win for women, as it also stipulates that women may still require a guardian’s consent for certain services if “there is a legal basis for this request in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah”.The two nations have backed rival sides during the war in Syria, where Iran supports Bashar al-Assad and Saudi Arabia certain factions of the Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow him.Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, called the directive a “real step forward”.While Emmerson praised Saudi’s rehabilitation work and said that the standard of its prisons was among the best in the world, he was extremely critical of the treatment of terrorist suspects.Women in Saudi can now also sit on the government’s advisory Shura Council, and in 2016 the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.Increasing the participation of women in the workforce from 22 per cent to 30 per cent is part of the Saudi Vision 2030.