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General Directorate of Mabaahith (Investigations)

The founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, king Abdul Aziz bin Abdurrahman Al-Saud had used the intelligence work in his historical wars to unify the country. He would not take a single military step without informing himself, through the scouts he sent out to the vicinity of the enemy, of the political and military situation of the other side, in order to put in place the appropriate plan to achieve victory.

He realized the importance of getting timely information, and used it to enhance the security and stability of the burgeoning Kingdom. Accordingly, his interest in modern communication increasingly grew until he set up the first radio communications system throughout the land, something which would have a prominent role in transferring information and news, to and from him. It had also played an effective role in determining many historical events that took place in the Kingdom.

As the political, international, regional, and local conditions improved, and in response to the needs of the period, as well as in recognition of the importance of the political, religious, and economical stage the Kingdom was witnessing, there appeared a need for setting up an apparatus that could provide information for the decision maker, participate alongside other security services in preserving the integrity of the state and its essential elements, and guarantee a high level of prosperity for the state and the citizen, while preserving all its gains in all fields.

Hence the Kingdom thought of setting up an intelligence service, and began this with the opening of an office for intelligence in the year 1376 Hijra, corresponding to 1955, under the name of “Al-Mabahith Al-Aammah” or (General Investigations). During the reign of King Saud bin Abdul Aziz, the General Intelligence was separated from the General Directorate of Mabaahith (Investigations). Intelligence was established officially as an independent security service with the issuing of the Royal decree number 11 in 1377 Hijra [1956] that ordered the setting up of a special department under the title of Maslahat Al-Istikhbarat Al-Aammah or (The General Intelligence Department).

Officers of the Mabahith have broad authorities to investigate, detain, and forward to judicial authorities “national security” cases--which ranged from terrorism cases to dissident and human rights activist cases--separate from the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP). A June 2014 Ministry of Justice decree formalized and reaffirmed the role of the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), founded in 2008 to try terrorism offenses, following the promulgation of a new counterterrorism law in February.

The law prohibits torture and holds criminal investigation officers accountable for any abuse of authority. Sharia, as interpreted in the country, prohibits judges from accepting confessions obtained under duress; statutory law provides that public investigators shall not subject accused persons to coercive measures to influence their testimony.

There were no confirmed reports of torture by government officials during 2015, but international human rights organizations reported that allegations of torture of prisoners were not uncommon. Numerous prisoners were serving sentences based on convictions they claimed were obtained through torture or physical abuse. Former detainees in facilities run by the General Investigations Directorate (internal security forces, also called Mabahith) alleged that abuse included sleep deprivation or long periods of solitary confinement for nonviolent detainees. Former detainees in Mabahith-run al-Ha’ir Prison claimed that, while physical torture was uncommon in detention, Mabahith officials sometimes resorted to mental or psychological abuse of detainees, particularly during the interrogation phase.

Ministry of Interior officials claim that rules prohibiting torture prevent such practices from occurring in the penal system. The ministry installed surveillance cameras to record interrogations of suspected persons in criminal investigation offices, some police stations, and in prisons where such interrogations regularly occurred, such as the ministry’s General Investigations Directorate / Mabahith prison facilities.



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