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Saudis launch probe into worker abuse

A Saudi government-backed rights group will investigate alleged abuse of foreign workers in the country after an international report charged that they are treated like slaves.

Last Modified: 16 Jul 2004 13:40 GMT
More than six million foreign staff work in the kingdom

A Saudi government-backed rights group will investigate alleged abuse of foreign workers in the country after an international report charged that they are treated like slaves.

A spokesman for the National Human Rights Association (NHRA) in Riyadh told the daily Arab News on Friday that the group had not received any of the complaints cited in a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch.

 

But he did not rule out that abuses might have occurred.

   

"[We] look forward to seeing the full report and getting to know the people who have been aggrieved and the parties who caused the harm in order to take up their cases," Bandar al-Hajjar, NHRA's spokesman, told the English-language newspaper.

   

"We think we, in the kingdom, are closer and in a better position to follow up such complaints and seek to redress them."

 

Report

   

In a report released in London on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said: "Migrant workers in the purportedly modern society that the kingdom has become continue to suffer extreme forms of labour exploitation that sometimes rise to slavery-like conditions."

 

"We think we in the kingdom are closer
and in a better position to follow up such complaints and seek
to redress them"

Bandar al-Hajjar,
Saudi National Human
Rights Association

The international watchdog added that its report on foreign labourers in the oil-rich kingdom was "an indictment of unscrupulous private employers and sponsors as well as Saudi authorities, including Interior Ministry interrogators and sharia court judges, who operate without respect for the rule of law and the inherent dignity of all men and women".

   

The Saudi embassy in Washington, however, said the report "grossly exaggerated" the experiences of a few of the more than six million foreigners working in the kingdom. It added that the Gulf Arab state had effective labour laws to protect all workers.

   

NHRA member Suhaila Hammad also called the report an exaggeration.

   

"There might have been individual cases but they don't reflect the majority. Otherwise, there would not be a lot of foreign workers working in the kingdom," she told Arab News.

   

Hajjar acknowledged that some abuse may occur because there are problems "such as exploitation and rape anywhere in the world".

Source:
Reuters
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