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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has detailed counterterrorism provisions in its national law. The offences, which are very broadly defined, carry the death penalty. The laws on terrorism have been used to execute political opponents of the regime.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

The 2017 Counterterrorism Law defines terrorism in very broad terms. Human Rights Watch has observed that the 2017 law includes criminal penalties of five to ten years in prison for portraying the king or crown prince, directly or indirectly, “in a manner that brings religion or justice into disrepute", and criminalizes a wide range of peaceful acts that bear no relation to terrorism.

A "Terrorist Crime" is defined as follows: 

Any act committed, individually or collectively, directly or indirectly, by a perpetrator, with the intention to disturb public order, destabilize national security or State stability, endanger national unity, suspend the Basic Law of Governance or some of its articles, undermine State reputation or status, cause damage to State facilities or natural resources, attempt to coerce any of its authorities into a particular action or inaction or threaten to carry out acts that would lead to of the aforementioned objectives or instigate such acts; or any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or any other person [not participating directly in hostilities], when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act; or

Any act which constitutes an offense as set forth in any of the international conventions or protocols related to terrorism or its’ financing or listed in the Annex to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has ratified.Art. 1(3), 2017 Law on Terrorism and Terrorist Financing. 

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties


Saudi Arabia is a State Party to all of the main United Nations treaties on terrorism.


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State Party


Saudi Arabia is also a State Party to the main regional treaties on terrorism.


Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1998 Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism State Party
1999 OIC Convention on Combating International Terrorism State Party

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

The death penalty is imposable--and has been imposed and executed--for many terrorist offences in Saudi law.

In 2016, the United Nations Committee against Torture stated--with respect to the earlier 2014 terrorism law--that:

While recognizing the State party’s concern about protecting its population from terrorist attacks, the Committee is concerned that the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing adopted in 2014 contains an extremely broad definition of terrorism that would enable the criminalization of acts of peaceful expression considered as endangering “national unity” or undermining “the reputation or position of the State”.

In March 2022, Saudi Arabia executed a record 81 people in a single day for terrorism-related offences. 

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

Saudi Arabia has considerable counterterrorism capacity in its police and armed forces.


Saudi Arabia Combating Terrorism and Financing of Terrorism Law

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations (2016)