13 September 2005 :Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved the establishment of a governmental human rights commission, the latest move by the oil-rich kingdom to address accusations of rights abuses.
The conservative Muslim kingdom is a frequent target of Western rights groups over alleged torture and other abuses. Harsh punishments issued by its Sharia Islamic courts, including flogging, amputation and public execution, are also criticised.
A statement issued after the weekly meeting of ministers, chaired by King Abdullah, said the commission aimed "to protect and strengthen human rights, spread awareness of them and help ensure they are implemented in light of Islamic rulings".
The commission would work closely with the king and its head would hold the rank of a government minister. Saudi officials had planned to set up a government human rights body for years but its establishment was probably accelerated by the accession in August of reformist King Abdullah, who succeeded his half-brother King Fahd.