UN concerned about arbitrary arrest and violations against human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: February 1, 2022
UN experts have expressed their concerns about the alleged arbitrary arrest and raid on the homes of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, as well as the arbitrary detention of a number of human rights defenders in the Kingdom.
In a memorandum sent to the Saudi authorities on November 30, 2021, the experts reported the arbitrary detention of Saudi women human rights defenders Asmaa Al-Subaie and Maha Al-Rafidi, as well as the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders Dr. Mohammad Al-Qahtani, Fowzan Mohsen Awad Al-Harbi, Issa Al-Nukhaifi and Khaled Al-Omair, and the violations againts them.
A worrying pattern of arrests for expressing opinion:
The experts expressed their grave concern at what appears to be a pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detentions of persons in the Kingdom, including human rights defenders; This is for their peaceful exercise of their legitimate human rights to freedom of opinion, expression, belief, assembly and association.
In their memo, the experts stressed that nonviolent criticism of state policies or institutions, including the judiciary, cannot be considered a criminal offense in any society governed by law and committed to human rights principles and obligations, and constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The experts also raised concerns about allegations of ill-treatment of some of the above-mentioned individuals while deprived of their liberty.
UN demands from Saudi Arabia:
The experts called on the Saudi authorities to provide any information about the allegations mentioned in that memorandum, with information on the legal basis for the arrest and detention of the above-mentioned persons, and how these measures comply with international rules and standards.
The experts also asked Saudi Arabia to provide information on whether all detainees can contact their family members, legal advisors, and medical personnel. They also asked for information on Dr. Al-Qahtani’s current health status.
The experts also requested information on any investigations that may have been conducted or expected in relation to allegations of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to which some of the above-mentioned individuals were subjected, with an indication of the measures taken to ensure that human rights defenders are able to work in an enabling environment and carry out their legitimate activities without fear of harassment, stigmatization or criminalization of any kind within the Kingdom.