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Saudi Arabia[1] [print]

Last edited: December 2005


Summary and Analysis


We were unable to find any statutory provisions that speak to Saudi Arabia's implementation of Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) with respect to the child's right to be heard in child protective proceedings.  Additionally, we have been unable to find any laws detailing the existence and procedures of a child protective system. 


Saudi Arabia acceded to the CRC in January of 1996, taking a general reservation to all provisions in conflict with Islamic Law.[2] We have been unable to determine what force in the law, if any, the CRC carries.


Saudi Arabia has submitted two reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, one in 2000[3] and another in 2005.[4]  In these reports, Saudi Arabia does state that children have the right to be heard in all matters relating to them, directly or through a representative,[5] including in judicial proceedings, and that their views will be weighed in accordance with their age and maturity.[6] Trials are held in the presence of a social worker, in supervised welfare homes, and the child can have his own defense attorney.[7]


The Committee's response to the 2000 report evidenced a concern that societal attitudes towards children inhibited a full realization of Article 12 rights.[8] More broadly, though, is the question of whether or not child protective systems exist in Saudi Arabia or if child abuse is even a recognized issue.


The state party reports do contemplate the need for children to be separated from their parents under certain circumstances and state that the children then go into the custody of the State who places the child in a social welfare institution or home.[9] The reports also notice that Shariah does allow for the transfer of guardianship from parents if the child is neglected, and that guardianship is transferred to a relative caregiver or the child is placed in a social welfare institution.[10]


However, UNICEF mentions that “there is no way to address or reference abused children” in Saudi Arabia. [11] And the Committee on the Rights of the Child has similarly expressed concern at the lack of protection for abused children: “[T]he Committee is concerned at the incidence of ill-treatment of children … within the family.  The Committee recommends that the State party take legislative measures to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence … against children in the family …. Moreover, adequate procedures and mechanisms need to be established to receive complaints; monitor, investigate and prosecute instances of ill-treatment; and ensure that the abused child is not victimized in legal proceedings.”[12] 


The U.S. Department of State reports that no national statistics are kept by the Government on cases of child abuse, but that in recent years the media has raised awareness of this issue.[13] In a 2003 report, the Ministry of Interior's Center for Crime Prevention and Research stated that 21% of male children had been abused, roughly one third having suffered psychological abuse and one fourth physical abuse, although there is concern that abuse is more prevalent than reported.[14] The Ministry would not release information about female children or sexual abuse, calling those issues “too sensitive for public discussion.”[15]


We were able to find three journal articles from the Annals of Saudi Medicine that spoke about child abuse from a medical perspective.[16] One document particularly speaks about the lack of regulations governing child abuse as a major reason why more protections and remedial measures are not afforded abused children and their families.[17] Another speaks to Saudi Arabia's recognition of child abuse as a problem as being only a recent occurrence, explaining the extremely low numbers of reported cases of child abuse, and states that Saudi Arabia currently lacks any national system to deal with this now recognized problem.[18] A third advocates for the role of physicians to be one of not only detection but reporting and prevention as well, including initiating legal action.[19] This article also says that removing children from an abusive family is not easy to accomplish in Saudi Arabia because of the lack of regulations governing this issue and that, perhaps more appealing to the culture of those in Saudi Arabia, would be to keep the child with a relative.[20] This article also speaks to improvements that have been made in Saudi Arabia, including, in 1994, the formation of the Child Advocacy Committee at the King Faisal Hospital that reports suspected and proven cases of child abuse to legal authorities, modeled after North American systems.[21]  The article ends with a reminder that “abusive behavior is not sanctioned in our traditional Islamic culture.”[22]


Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find most of the law on Saudi Arabia or to locate a contact person in the country.


Related Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)






Article 10

The state will aspire to strengthen family ties, maintain its Arab and Islamic values and care for all its members, and to provide the right conditions for the growth of their resources and capabilities.



[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] Convention on the Rights of the Child, Ratifications and Reservations, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www.ohchr.org/english/countries/ratification/11.htm.

[3] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial reports of States parties due in 1998: Saudi Arabia, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/61/Add.2 (Mar. 29, 2000), available http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/fa46e24ca2ecc709c1256918004525b9?Opendocument, and also as .pdf Document.

[4] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Second periodic reports of States parties due in 2003: Saudi Arabia, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/136/Add.1 (Apr. 21, 2005), available http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/bfff4a8b21a0a267c125703c004a0025?Opendocument, and also as .pdf Document.

[5] Initial Report: Saudi Arabia, supra note 2, at ¶ 87.

[6] Id.; Second Report: Saudi Arabia, supra note 3, at ¶ 82.

[7] Id.

[8] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Saudi Arabia, 26th Sess., 697th mtg. ¶ 29, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.148 (Feb. 22, 2001), available http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/83d5295595532530c12569ed00585df4?Opendocument, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[9] Initial Report: Saudi Arabia, supra note 2, at ¶ 153, 157; Second Report: Saudi Arabia, supra note 3, at ¶ 135, 140.

[10] Initial Report: Saudi Arabia, supra note 2, at ¶ 155; Second Report: Saudi Arabia, supra note 3, at ¶ 138.

[11] UNICEF, At a Glance: Saudi Arabia, available http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/saudiarabia.html, and also here.

[12] Concluding Observations, supra note 7, at ¶ 35-36.

[13] U.S. Dept. of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004: Saudi Arabia, available http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41731.htm.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] G. Karthikeyan, et al., Child Abuse: Report of Three Cases From Khamis Mushayt, 20 Annals of Saudi Med. 430 (2000) available http://www.kfshrc.edu.sa/annals/205_206/00-092.PDF, and also as .pdf Document (hereinafter Three Cases); Ashraf A. F. Elkerdany et al., Fatal Physical Child Abuse In Two Children of a Family, 19 Annals of Saudi Med. 120 (1999) available http://www.kfshrc.edu.sa/annals/192/98-203.pdf, and also as .pdf Document (hereinafter Two Children); H. Kattan, Child Abuse and Neglect: Perspective From King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, 18 Annals of Saudi Med. 107 (1998) available http://www.kfshrc.edu.sa/annals/182/97-327.html, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document (hereinafter Perspective).

[17] Three Cases, supra note 15, at 431.

[18] Two Children, supra note 15, at 122.

[19] Perspectives, supra note 15.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Const. of Saudi Arabia (1993), ¶ 10, available http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/sa00000_.html, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.


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