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International Alliance for Advanced Judicial Studies (IAAJS)



The Mabahith, also spelled Mabaheth, is the secret police agency of the Presidency of State Security in Saudi Arabia, and deals with domestic security and counter-intelligence.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Mabahith "monitors suspected political opponents and others, targets individuals for arrest, and interrogates detainees. Mabahith agents operate with impunity and have been responsible for a wide range of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, and torture" including waterboarding, denailing, flagellation and beatings, amongst other forms of severe abuse.

Members of the Mabahith were allegedly responsible for the torture of Western detainees arrested during a car bombing campaign which started in 2000. Two members in particular, Khalid al-Saleh and Ibrahim al-Dali, were named by William Sampson in his court action against the Saudi government. Sampson and others lost their case in the UK High Court when the Saudis used the State Immunity Act 1978 as their defence.

Mabahith runs the `Ulaysha Prison in Riyadh, where it holds prisoners under arbitrary detention. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has objected to arbitrary detention at Mabahith's prison. As of June 2019, arbitrarily detained prisoners apparently include five founding members of a would-be political party, the Umma Islamic Party, and Khaled al-Johani, who publicly protested in Riyadh on the 11 March "Day of Rage" during the 2019 Saudi Arabian protests.

Dhahban Central Prison is used for arbitrary detention. According to the Human Rights Watch report, women activists – who have been detained since May 2018 – were taken to Dhahban and tortured in a room called an “officer’s guesthouse”. Reportedly, the men who tortured these women were from “cyber security” – a reference to officers working under Saud al-Qahtani, who was fired for his involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


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