Saudis not capable of managing Hajj: Rights group

Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where hundreds were killed and hundreds more were wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca on September 24, 2015. (Reuters)

The UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) says Saudi Arabia is obviously not “capable” of managing the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Press TV reports.

Referring to the recent Hajj tragedy in Mecca and previous incidents, the commission’s Reza Kazem said that, “Things need to change” as it is clear that Saudi authorities are incapable of managing the Hajj.

“They are not able to manage this and it is important that we look at other structures and the ways of how … Muslim countries and organizations can get involved in managing this hajj event,” said Kazem on Saturday.

The Saudis deny the “responsibility that they actually hold,” and even blame the victims for the tragedy, he noted.

He added that an independent investigation must be launched into the whole incident and the reasons behind it.   

International Lawyer Alfred Lambremont Webre said in a separate interview that Iran could pursue legal action at the International Court Of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on the grounds of “criminal negligence.”

At least 136 Iranian pilgrims have so far been confirmed dead in the deadly crush that claimed the lives of over 2,000 people during a ritual in Mina on Thursday, according to the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization. Saeed Ohadi noted Saturday that 102 Iranian pilgrims have also been wounded and 344 others are still missing.

Also on Saturday, Iran’s attorney general said he would take legal action against Saudi authorities over the death the Iranian pilgrims.

“The Al Saud (ruling family) must know that we will pursue the trial of the culprits of this crime through international courts,” said Ebrahim Raeisi, adding that, “It is not only incompetence, but a crime.” 

During a meeting with the UN chief in New York on the sidelines of 70th session of the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized Riyadh over its lack of cooperation into the incident. 

“Unfortunately, the Saudi government does not cooperate enough in addressing the fate of the missing and transferring the bodies of those killed as well as the injured ones, and it is imperative that the UN Secretary General [Ban Ki-moon] remind the Riyadh government of its legal and human obligations,” Rouhani said.

President Rouhani also expressed deep regret over the incident while offering his condolences to the bereaved.

During a separate speech at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, Rouhani also stressed the need for a probe into the cause of “this incident and similar incidents in this year’s Hajj rituals,” and called for an immediate follow-up on the treatment of those injured.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is currently in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, called on Saudi Arabia to adopt necessary measures to address the issue of mismanagement of the Hajj pilgrimage rituals in the wake of the Mina tragedy the “painful” incident in this year’s Hajj rituals.

Zarif went on to express hopes that Saudi officials would realize their huge responsibility to hold the annual ceremony in the best possible way and recommended that the authorities use other Islamic countries’ experience in this regard.

Earlier in the day, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that Saudi officials and religious leaders should not attribute the Mina catastrophe to fate, while criticizing their "unsatisfactory" handling of the incident.  

Iran expects Saudi officials to immediately establish the fate of those who are still missing and help transfer Iranian casualties back home, he said.

For the third time, Iran summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires on Saturday to receive Tehran’s official protest over the incident.

The Islamic Republic called on the Saudi envoy to facilitate the work to follow up on the tragedy.

The Mina incident took place days after a massive construction crane collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 people and leaving over 200 others wounded.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku