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The UN sends 6 complaints in 4 months to the Saudi government regarding its growing violations of human rights

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From the late March to early July of 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia received six letters from UN special rapporteurs regarding several cases of human rights violations, and it responded to five of them within the legal deadlines. The letters came from a number of groups and rapporteurs on the topics of forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, freedom of opinion and expression, executions, freedom of belief, human rights advocates, poverty, and slavery.

Yemeni journalist, Marwan Al Muraisy

On April 1, 2019, the Saudi government received a query regarding the arrest and forced disappearance of Yemeni journalist Marwan Ali Naji Al Muraisy. Information indicates that Al Muraisy appeared in a television interview with Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, whose execution the public prosecution has sought since his arrest in September 2017.

On June 1, 2018, Al Muraisy reportedly returned to his home in Riyadh, where he was arrested by plainclothes officers from the state security agency without a warrant and placed in solitary confinement in an undisclosed location. The Saudi government responded to the letter, but its response is still in translation, according to the UN’s published statements.

Abdulaziz Saeed Helwan Abdullah

On April 17, 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia received a letter in the case of Qatari citizen Abdulaziz Saeed Halwan Abdullah, who had been studying at Umm Al Qura University in Saudi Arabia since 2014.

On September 16, 2018, Mr. Mohammed Saeed Saad Halwan Abdullah reported to the Qatari National Human Rights Committee that his family had lost contact with his brother, Abdulaziz, beginning on July 6, 2018, and numerous attempts to contact him failed. After a time, Abdulaziz contacted his family; the number he called from appeared to trace back to the Presidency of State Security.

On April 23, 2019, the Saudi government responded to the letter by claiming that Abdullah was detained under the terrorism act on charges of being linked to a terrorist organization.

Abbas Alabbad

On May 27, 2019, UN special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Saudi government regarding the case of citizen Abbas Alabbad, who, along with dozens of others, received the death penalty on espionage charges.
The letter referred to the abuses Alabbad suffered during the interrogation and detention phase and the fact that he faces the death penalty even though the charges against him are not among the most serious. In addition, his life is in imminent danger because others convicted alongside him in the same case have been executed.
On June 24, 2019, the Saudi government responded to the letter, denying the reports of violations against Alabbad and alleging that he received a fair trial and the verdict is awaiting appeal.
Alabbad’s case is part of a case known in Saudi Arabia as the spy cell, in which 32 people were subjected to unfair trials, and dozens were sentenced to death, even though most of the charges against them were unrelated to espionage, and many of them involved the exercise of legitimate rights, including charges that are not among the most serious. In April 2019, the Saudi government executed 11 individuals from the same case as Alabbad, thus increasing the risk to his life.
Omar Abdulaziz Alzahrani
On July 5, 2019, UN special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Saudi government asking about the targeting of an activist living in Canada, Abdulaziz, on account of his criticism of the Saudi government on social media, and various and persistent threats against him because of his ongoing activity.
The letter also noted the targeting of Abdulaziz’s family because of his activity and requested the Saudi government to indicate the measures taken to ensure the empowerment of human rights advocates and journalists in Saudi Arabia, as well Saudi citizens living abroad, to carry out their legal work in a safe environment, without fear of threats, harassment, or acts of intimidation directed at them or their family members.
Indian national Ramu Mageswari
On July 12, 2019, special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Saudi government regarding Indian national Ramu Mageswari, who arrived in Saudi Arabia in June 2019 to work as a domestic servant. According to available information, Mageswari was a victim of human trafficking and suffered a variety of types of ill-treatment and torture, and was also not allowed to communicate with her family. The letter requested more information from the Saudi government, particularly since Mageswari’s location is unknown.
The Saudi government responded to the letter, but it is still in translation.
Arbitrary execution and detention
On July 15, 2019, UN special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Saudi government regarding the execution of citizen Munir Al-Adam and requesting information about a campaign of arrests in April 2019, targeting scores of activists, human rights advocates, and writers.
The letter pointed to violations, including mass executions in April 2019, and noted that Al-Adam and others were the victims of ill-treatment and torture and were also deprived of their basic rights, including the right to a fair trial. The letter also indicated that these individuals have been the subject of numerous previous letters from UN rapporteurs. The letter requested information from the Saudi government explaining violations in the cases of the individuals executed, particularly with regard to retaliation against Al-Adam in prison and his execution while he was the subject of a communication before the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The letter also dealt with the topic of the mass arrests that occurred between April 4-9, targeting writers, activists, and human rights advocates, including women. It noted that the arrests were for reasons related to the exercise of basic rights, including the right to expression and opinion. The letter requested more information from the Saudi government about the reasons for arresting these individuals and their fate.
The Saudi government responded to the letter, but it is still in translation.
The ESOHR believes that the increasing number of letters sent by special rapporteurs, the Working Group, and others at the UN, is additional strong evidence of the extent of the deterioration of human rights in Saudi Arabia and its widening dimensions, including the danger of violations against residents and citizens alike.
Although the Saudi government has responded to most of these letters, its responses appear to be desperate attempts to mislead the international community. While claiming to cooperate with the UN, Saudi Arabia’s responses do not provide satisfactory solutions and do not comply with the legal obligations the country voluntarily assumed. The ESOHR stresses that the Saudi responses confirm that Saudi Arabia does not have good intentions when it comes to respect for human rights.

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