As of November, at least 10 women remained in detention without charge, although some expected charges could carry prison sentences of up to 20 years. Human rights organizations began reporting in November that Saudi interrogators tortured at least four of the women, including by administering electric shocks, whipping them on their thighs, and sexually harassing and assaulting them. The death penalty has proven difficult in the Middle East, as the legal systems of many countries are based on religion, which is “more resistant to change than systems based solely on law.” [9] In most Middle Eastern countries, the legal system is largely based primarily on Sharia law. The Israeli legal system, however, has other sources. [9] In criminal law established by Sharia law, most crimes classified as hudud are punishable by death and are considered dangerous to Islamic society. Their punishments are set forth in the Qur`an and Hadith. These include adultery, apostasy, armed robbery and rebellion. In 2012, Iran consolidated its leading position in the region with two executions a day,[12] and Iran continues to execute juvenile prisoners despite its international obligations. [13] According to 2015 studies by Amnesty International, at least 1,196 executions took place in eight Middle Eastern countries, “a 26% increase from 945 executions in eight countries in 2014.” [14] “Iran alone accounted for 82 percent of all recorded executions in the region[14] and Saudi Arabia executed at least 158 people – a 76 percent increase from 2014 and the highest number for Saudi Arabia since 1995.” [14] The constitution and other laws and guidelines protect religious freedom, but in practice the government has restricted religious freedom in some cases. The government`s tendency to respect religious freedom did not change significantly during the year.

The constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the state and designates the king as commander of the faithful (`amir al-mu`mineen) and defender of the community and faith (hami hama al-milla wa ad-din) in the country. The government continued to respect the right of the vast majority of citizens to practice their religion, although government policies prevented conversion from Islam and prohibited efforts to proselytize Muslims. Some Moroccan Christians reported a reduction in police harassment. The government continued to restrict the distribution of non-Islamic religious materials, as well as some Islamic materials that did not follow the Maliki school of Sunni Islam, to which the monarchy belongs. Several small religious groups practiced with different official restrictions. The constitution and other laws and guidelines protect religious freedom, and in practice the government has generally respected religious freedom. The constitution declares equal rights and duties for all citizens without discrimination or favoritism, but establishes a balance of power among the main religious groups. The government`s tendency to respect religious freedom did not change significantly during the year.

Authorities across the region continued to arrest, detain, and prosecute people solely for their peaceful expression, often using subjective provisions in the penal code criminalizing “insult” to criticize the authorities, including their response to the pandemic, and to imprison critics. A court in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq sentenced five activists and journalists to six years in prison each for actions related to their use of social media and journalistic work under vaguely worded laws, while the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) justified the prosecution of the statements as necessary for “national security reasons”. In one particularly egregious case, Abdulrahman al-Sadhan was sentenced to 20 years in prison and an equally long travel ban to Saudi Arabia for his anti-government tweets. In Morocco, a court sentenced YouTuber Jamila Saadane to three months in prison for “insulting” state institutions after posting videos accusing authorities of covering up prostitution rings and human trafficking. In Algeria, authorities are increasingly using vague terrorism-related charges to prosecute people for their legitimate political speech or activism. The Constitution does not explicitly protect religious freedom, and other laws, policies, and government practices restrict it. The constitution states that Islam is the state religion and that Sharia (Islamic law) is the source of all legislation. It effectively limits the presidency to observant Muslims, while imposing similar restrictions on other government offices. The constitution generally allows Muslims of various sects and followers of religious groups other than Islam to pray according to their faith; However, the government prohibits conversion to Islam and proselytizing efforts against Muslims. The government`s tendency to respect religious freedom did not change significantly during the year. Terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its affiliate Ansar al-Sharia, committed human rights violations during their occupation of the towns of Abyan.

These groups imposed their religious interpretations through harassment, flogging, amputations and murder, including crucifixions, during their occupation.