Saudi Royals Above the Law?

Accustomed to doing whatever they want with total immunity, Saudi royals feel they can do the same in other countries and get away with it.

saudi-arabia-flagThey used to be able to either buy their way out, using their family’s influence, or to claim diplomatic immunity to escape culpability for their misdeeds.

They still do, especially in Arab and Muslim countries, but their options seem to be shrinking in democratically governed societies.

As elucidated in this article, a senior Saudi Prince, Mishal, and his son, Abdul Aziz, were entangled in a business scheme and had to face their day in an open British court despite intense efforts to dismiss the case or keep it secret. The once untouchable royals were denied both options.

Other members of the Saudi ruling family, males and females, have been reminded that they may be absolute rulers and beyond reach in their kingdom, but they can no longer escape justice in countries where the people are the authors of their own destinies. Princess Maha, the wife of former Saudi Minister of Interior, Naif, attempted to flee Paris after accruing 6 million Euros debt in luxurious hotels, rare jewels and 24 hour limousine services in 2012. Some of the victims spotted Maha and 60 of her servants (modern slaves), bodyguards, and makeup personnel loading up the unpaid-for goods and services in the middle of the night in June 2012 and alerted the French police.

Being a former wife of the most powerful and ruthless prince, Minister of Interior Naif, Princess Maha thought she could pack up and leave France without paying her huge debt. This time, she overestimated her royal significance. Not only was she prevented from traveling, but a French court confiscated her booty to pay the trusting French business owners. In Saudi Arabia, any prince or princess can pick up the phone and call any department store and order whatever he/she wants without questions asked, let alone paying at the counter. Furthermore, it’s not unusual for Royals to borrow money from banks and never pay their loans.

Princess Buniah Al-Saud “was arrested on a felony charge of aggravated battery” after her maid, Ismiyati Memet Soryono, reported her to US authorities in Florida for enslaving and abusing her while refusing to pay her meager $200-a-month salary. Like other royals, she claimed diplomatic immunity even though she was a greenhorn English student. She was born into a totally segregated environment of ruling masters and subservient subjects where royals are not subjected to any law in their kingdom and where treating commoners with respect is considered a sign of weakness which would only encourage non-royals to think of royals as equals.

In late 2010 Prince Saud, said to be one of King Abdullah’s nephews, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a British judge for murdering his male servant whom the prince had repeatedly abused both sexually and physically. Appalled by the vulgarity of the prince’s cruel treatment and the subsequent murder of his defenseless servant, the judge told the prince in an open British court (courts in Saudi Arabia are closed to media, and defendants are not allowed to have legal counsel) that,

“You killed Abdulaziz in the course of a sustained and ferocious assault… You were in a position of domination over him, as demonstrated both by the lift (elevator) incident and by the sexually explicit photographs you took of him, at some point prior to Feb. 15, which were found on your mobile phone. Abdulaziz was a vulnerable victim, entirely subjugated to your will. You were in a position of authority and trust over him which you exploited ruthlessly.”

These criminal verdicts against Saudi royals being levied in countries where no one is above the rule of law should send a clear message to the thousands of princes and princesses – their subjugated subjects are yearning for equal treatment under a codified rule of law applicable to everyone including the king and his family. Given the large number of well-informed and educated Saudi men and women advocating for non-sectarian rule of law, the day for accountability is inevitable and fast approaching. The trials and convictions of members of the Saudi ruling family in other countries give moral support to Saudis who demand a just system in their country.

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However, the Saudi royals’ influence has reached dangerous pinnacles; they are in a position to blackmail democratic governments into overriding their democratic judicial systems and rule of law in surrender to Saudi ultimata. Accused of being involved in a large bribery scandal in a massive Saudi-British Arms deal (Al-Yamamah), the former Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, flew to London and told former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to stop his Attorney General’s office from pursuing an investigation of the scandal or risk terror attacks against Britain. Similarly, the US Justice Department sided with the Saudis in May 2009 when new evidence linking the Saudi royals to the 9/11 attack was discovered by lawyers for families of the victims.

Prince Bandar is reported to have told Blair that if he were to let the investigation go through, Britain could face bloody terrorist attacks. “Investigators working on the fraud probe into Saudi arms deals were told they faced ‘another 7/7’ and the ‘loss of British lives on British streets’ if they continued the inquiry… Saudi Arabia’s rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted.”

The continued Western self-defeating support for the absolute Saudi system is alienating some of the West’s most natural Saudi allies: women, religious minorities, and pro-democracy and social justice advocates. Besides being resentful of their oppressive regime’s heavy-handedness, many aspiring and freedom-seeking Saudi citizens are becoming increasingly resentful of the West’s support for their repressive system, support garnered by secure access to Saudi oil, money, and businesses.

Dr. Ali Alyami is the founder and executive director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, in Washington, DC. CDHR focuses on promoting peaceful and incremental democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia, including empowerment of women, religious freedom, free flow of information, free movement, free press, privatization of government industries, free elections, non-sectarian constitution, and codified rule of law, transparency and accountability. Read other articles by Ali.

  • roxana aguilera

    mucho corage y generosidad tiene el Dr Ali Alyami . llagara el dia q se acabe la impunidad para esos abusadores y corruptos de monarcas saudies.No puede haber retaliacion contra inocentes ,deben direccionarse en primavera como egipto ,tunisia
    Es increible la pobreza existente en ese pueblo, el grado de vigilancia en la vida personal del pueblo. Mis condolencia a los familiares del joven asesinado por ese “principe”,,tantos anonimos tendra el pueblo saudi ???Es conmoviente e indignante
    los desmando de esa dictadura monarquica.