Saudi Arabia's clouded commitment to reform

In your Oct. 15 editorial "Saudis' Progress," which welcomes the announcement of municipal elections in Saudi Arabia and calls for further political and educational reform, a passing mention is made of efforts "to introduce due process into the judicial system." Reform of the justice system is central to any successful reform efforts in the kingdom. For its citizens, exercising increased political rights or enjoying the benefits of an improved education system will not be possible as long as the threat, and reality, of arbitrary arrest, detention without charge, secret trials, and torture continue to create a climate of fear.

The fate of several Saudi Arabian journalists who have endorsed reform efforts, several of whom have lost their jobs or been banned from writing, suggests the kind of resistance to real reform that exists inside the kingdom. To demonstrate a serious commitment to reform, Saudi Arabian authorities need to protect such journalists. Hundreds of Saudi Arabians remain held in secrecy with no access to lawyers or fair trial proceedings, many for their religious or political beliefs. To demonstrate a commitment to reform, Saudi authorities should release them. And rampant discrimination against women and religious minorities, both within and outside the justice system, continues unchecked. This, too, must be addressed if Saudi Arabia's commitment to reform is to be taken seriously.
Brian Evans
Austin, Texas
Amnesty International USA

Haiti's problem is itself

Regarding the Oct. 14 Opinion "The ruins of another US try at democracy: Haiti": No amount of foreign diplomacy will solve Haiti's problems. The root of Haiti's continued problems is the selfishness that motivates so many areas of life in Haiti. There is little or no effort by the concerned parties to work together, and US intervention would only make matters more complicated, as all political sides would try to manipulate US policies to their own benefit.

The US occupied Haiti during the first two decades of the last century and what permanent good was accomplished? Very little. Many of the roads and utilities installed then are being used today. Haiti has done little on its own. Until Haiti decides it wants to make things better, all the foreign aid and diplomacy available will only put a Band-Aid on a festering wound. The only solution for Haiti is for its own leaders to decide they care enough about the people to help them.
David Dirrim
Cap Haitien, Haiti

In China, an inspiring feat

Regarding your Oct. 16 editorial "A New Orbit for China": Today, as an American resident in Beijing, I rose early to watch the landing of the Shenzhou V space capsule. I shared my Chinese friends' excitement and happiness about their country's successful first manned space flight. It reminded me of how I felt in earlier years in the United States.

To the Chinese, it was a proof that their scientists and engineers are just as talented as those of more developed countries. And why shouldn't they be? The application of science and technology is greatly needed to help develop a country laboring under the burden of finding employment for a huge population. Indeed, when I asked two young men on the street what they thought of the country's achievement, they replied that there are still people who aren't getting enough to eat. Chinese people believe that if they study and work hard, they will succeed, and life will get better. I hope that this recent success will be an inspiration to them to continue to strive against great odds to make life better for all.
Lynn Mandujano

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