On November 25, the Court of Grievances will issue its verdict in the case of Adalah Center for Human Rights against the Ministry of Social Affairs. Adalah Center has sued the ministry after it was denied a license to operate legally, according to al-Yaum newspaper.
Saudi Arabia is yet to approve a proposed law to license and regulate civil society organizations, but if the Qatif-based Adalah Center won the case it could set a legal precedent and encourage other unlicensed organizations to do the same.
The Ministry of Social Affairs has refused to grant a license to the Center on the basis that they can only license charities and that the activities of Adalah Center is not covered by their definition of what is a charity. They also said that the Human Rights Commission is the government body responsible for issuing licenses to human rights organizations.
The lawyer for Adalah Center, Taha al-Hejji, told the newspaper that the Center started under the name “Rights Activists Network” in 2009. The official site of Adalah Center mentions December 10, 2011 as the date of founding. The lawyer said there are 21 founding members, including three women.
As they wait for the verdict in this legal battle, the Center has been actively working to document and report on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, especially in the Eastern Province that has witnessed frequent protests over the past 18 months. They are one of several local human rights groups operating in the country without proper licensing.
The National Society for Human Rights is the only human rights group operating legally in the country. It was founded with government approval in 2004. NSHR is technically an NGO but they actually receive financial support from the government.