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Saudi Arabia: The Royal Court Ignores the pleas for detainee Habib Al Shouwaikhat’s until he Passed Away

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The Royal Court in Saudi Arabia received an urgent letter from the family of the young Habib Al Shouwaikhat on January 18th, 2018, explaining his deteriorating health, and the danger of arbitrary detention on his life. Afterdays of no official response, neither from the Court nor from any other governmental bodies, Al Shouwaikhat’s death was announced and his funeral was held on January 21st, 2018. He had spent his last years of lifearbitrarily detained since September 9th, 2015.

During the last weeks of his life he was prevented from visits, making the time and circumstances of his death a mystery. Amid the lack of any independent judiciary in the country, it is almost impossible to instigate an inquiry orattainredress from the perpetrators who caused his death. Meanwhile, the Royal Court, the highest authority in the country, could not be accountable or questioned.

In a letter sent by Mr. Youssef Al Shouwaikhat, Habib’s father, he wrote to King Salman: “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, my son’s health cannot tolerate more delay, as he suffers from disorders in the heart and in the thyroid gland, that causes him shortnessof breath, walking inability and a significant difficulty in movements what made him unable to attend  his scheduled session in the Specialized Criminal Court on 16/04/1439 H ( January 3rd, 2018). As when he was trying to climb the stairs he lost his consciousness due to his health conditions and fell down; then he was referred to the Court’s dispensary to provide him ambulatory treatment. According to the doctor in the General Investigation prison after several tests and examinations, it has been confirmed that he had throat cancer – and he isin need for chemotherapy)”

The letter continued to give details of the Habib’s heart attack:

“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, it was confirmed that Habib had cancer in his throat seven months ago, but unfortunately, he didn’t receive any treatment for this serious disease so far; as a result, his health has deteriorated more and more by time. In addition, Habib suffered from a heart attack one month ago due which his organs failing, as a result of which the medical staff had to revive him using electric shock”.

Yet the Royal Court completely ignored Habib’s fatherurgent letter, despite clear demand in the letter to refer him for the necessary care and treatment: “All what I ask for is your highness to instruct your competent authorities to transfer my sonto a special hospital for chemotherapy, as it is not available in the prison’s hospital which is not qualified to provide treatment services like what my son needs”.

Citizens in Saudi Arabia turn to address the Royal Court, which is like a direct office connected to the country’s current king Salman, for various issues. Many of these issues are supposed to be accomplished by the country’smany institutions, such as the courts or the Ombudsman’s Office or the diverse ministries or the regional emirates, but for a number of reasons including the failure of these institutions in responding to the citizens’ issues  and also their lack of independence especially in the cases of political nature, they do not provide effective remedy.

Likewise, some citizens turn to communicate with Royal Court, due to what Saudi Arabia calls (the policy of open doors). Yet it is constantly observed that many of the citizens and residents needs and issues are not met and not solved neither via various governmental institutions nor via the Royal Court, which is commonly a last resort for most citizens.

Furthermore, the Royal Court is considered the king’s executive office, from which royal orders are issued. In 2014, the Royal Court established “Al Tawasul” portal, an electronic service through which the king can be informed “about any default from anybody, and the consideration then shall be on the benefit of all citizens”; according to the official definition of the website, but it is unknown how effective it is.

The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights believes that the Royal Courts failure to act withregards to the critical health situation of Habib Al Showaikhat, exemplifies one of the many situations that highlight citizens and residents dismay regarding their violated rights. It also raises the level of oppression resulting from the grievances that are accumulated in the country,and adds to the daily systematic violations that the official bodies commit, appearing in prisons and reaching courtrooms.

The Royal Court’s ignorance of Al Showaikhat’s letter, despite its seriousnessand urgency, confirms the institutional failure of executive and judicial bodies like in prisons, the public prosecution and courts. Hadthese institutions been successful in dealing with citizens concerns an greviances,the citizens wouldn’t have to communicate with the Royal Court.

In addition, the Court’s ignorance to Al Showaikhat’s plea letterhighlights the ineffectiveness of reforms in the judiciary and public prosecution.

The organisation stresses that what youth Mohammad Al Showaikhat has experienced in the prison comes amidst a general pattern of maltreatment that detainees receive in Saudi Arabia. Various reports published by the organisation confirm that torture is used systematically in prisons and detention centers. Also, the organization documented the murder of one of them under torturewhilst in police custody, youth Makki Al Orayedh, following which no one was held accountable for his murder under torture.

Moreover, the deprivation of Al Showaikhat from medical treatment is considered a form of torture, cruel inhumane and degrading treatment . His death, due to the deprivation of medical treatment represents a flagrant violation of his right to life and security that is stated in the 3rd article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, his deprivation of treatment violates the Standard Minimum Rules of the Treatment of Prisoners that states “whereas the prisoners who need a special care shall be transferred to special prisons or civilian hospitals”.

The General Assembly of the UN is called upon more than ever to suspend Saudi Arabia membership, in accordance to the paragraph 8 of a resolution adopted by the General Assembly to establish the HRC in 2006:  ‘the General Assembly may decide, by a two – third majority of the members present and voting, to suspend the membership of the Council enjoyed by any of its members if it committed gross and systematic violations of human rights’. The membership of Saudi Arabiafor the fourth time, that extends until 2019, represents a reduction in the value of the HRC membership, which is according to the 9th paragraph of the resolution establishing HRC, is supposed to represent the Member States with virtuous models in human rights protection: ‘The elected members in the Council have the highest standards in enhancing and protecting human rights’.

The lack of investigations and accountability in many similar cases that happened over the past years undoubtedlysignal that Saudi Arabia’s ratification on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is nothing more than a mere formality so far; Saudi Arabia has failed to investigate cases of those who have died or were murdered in political and public prisons despite some being confirmed torture victims or are likely to have been subjected to torture, in its various forms.

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