Human Rights Watch (HRW) remained critical of ongoing injustices within Saudi Arabia in its 2013 World Report.

The document examined the status of women, migrant workers, criminal justice, and freedom of expression, with very few improvements noted in the past year.

In 2012, the Saudi Ministry of Labor issued four decrees granting women permission to work in fields from which they were previously barred. Human Rights Watch, noted, however, that regulations in the work place often leave women subject to strict mandates and that many laws exist that still prohibit women from holding a wide range of professional positions.

While at the 2012 London games, they were permitted to participate in the Olympics for the first time, Saudi women essentially remain banned from sports within the Kingdom itself.

The report again called on the Saudi government to terminate the discriminatory guardianship system, to lift the ban on women driving, and to draft laws that seriously combat violence against women and children.

HRW called on the government to abolish the sponsorship system, create laws to protect workers’ rights, and to tackle issues of worker abuse. The report was very critical of the treatment of migrant workers within the Kingdom, finding that many workers lived in slave-like conditions. Thousands of migrant workers have filed reports of abuse with their embassies, and, despite limited access to legal advice and translation, dozens of workers are currently on death row.

HRW harshly criticized the Saudi government for violating citizen’s basic freedoms, noting that the number of arrests in the past year rose significantly. Citizens (including children) were arrested for peaceful criticism of the government, religious worship at variance with state-sanctioned religiosity, and defending human rights. HRW’s Middle East director stated that the government “went to considerable lengths to punish, intimidate, and harass those who expressed opinions that deviate from the official line”.

HRW’s full report can be read here.

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