ALQST has documented five cases of enforced disappearances in Saudi Arabia. The victims include a Syrian pilgrim, a preacher, two journalists and a humanitarian worker. We call on the Saudi authorities to immediately reveal the fate of these individuals and all others who have been forcefully disappeared
Under the terms of the 1992 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, “enforced disappearance” is considered to be:
the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.
People who are arrested in Saudi Arabia always suffer enforced disappearance for the first few days of their detention. Exactly how long this situation lasts depends on whether or not the family and relatives inquire about the victim and demand to know their fate, and also how well known the victim’s name is in the media or among NGOs and UN bodies. Detainees tend to remain disappeared for longer if no one asks about them.
Sometimes, however, enforced disappearances have continued for a very long time, raising concerns for the safety and fate of the victims. Examples include a Syrian pilgrim called Khaled Mohammed Abdulaziz, the preacher Sulaiman al-Dowaish, journalists Marwan al-Muraisy and Turki al-Jasser, and humanitarian worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan.
Sulaiman al-Dowaish was arrested on 22 April 2016 after posting tweets in which he seemed to criticise King Salman for giving his son Mohammad bin Salman so much power, by making him his own deputy as Prime Minister and appointing him as Crown Prince and Defence Minister. Al-Dowaish tweeted:
Don’t go overboard in entrusting your spoiled adolescent son with further powers without oversight and accountability, or else you must expect a daily calamity from him that will eventually tear down your house. Loving your son while neglecting to make him accountable will nurture feelings in him that will probably lead to contempt for you and reliance on himself, as he won’t care about you losing things that you have been proud to achieve. You won’t be blamed for your natural love for your son, but you will be blamed if he exploits it to carry on his immature and reckless behaviour. The only distinction that will be made is that you give him authorisation, or that he pays no attention to you and doesn’t tell you anything. Take care not to let love for just one of your sons, especially if he is a lightweight, cause you to give him preference over the rest of his brothers, because this will make them want to get their revenge on him, and will also make him arrogant and disrespectful of his elders.
After that, Mohammed bin Salman wanted to have Sulaiman al-Dowaish arrested, but he couldn’t, because the Minister of Interior and Crown Prince at that time (since deposed), his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, refused. Upon this, Mohammed bin Salman had al-Dowaish arrested by forces of the Ministry of Defence and Aviation, of which he was the minister. Later, after ousting his cousin and taking control of the Ministry of Interior and its facilities, he had al-Dowaish moved into the Mabahith (secret police) prison system. It was not long before al-Dowaish disappeared from sight, and nothing further has been heard of him, or about his health or whereabouts. He thus entered a state of enforced disappearance that continues to the time of this writing.
Khaled Mohammed Abdulaziz, 41, traveled on 26 August 2017 with his mother Khadija from Turkey to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage. When the hajj rituals were over, Khaled and his mother traveled on with their party to visit Medina. On 11 September 2017, Khaled told his mother he wanted to go back to Mecca to visit the Grand Mosque again. The following day, 12 September, Khadija lost contact with her son. She informed the group’s official minder, so he could check that Khaled was all right and that she did not need to worry. The man had still not replied to her messages by the time they were due to leave Saudi Arabia on 15 September 2017. Then, at Medina Airport, Saudi officials delayed the group because Khaled was missing, while the minder tried to convince the airport officials that Khaled was ill. He then handed him over to the officials at the airport so that the group, including Khaled’s mother Khadija, could depart for Turkey.
Khaled’s family contacted the Saudi authorities several times through the Saudi Embassy in Turkey, and in London; by phoning the Ministry of Hajj and the Ministry of Interior; and through the Pilgrimage Commission of the Syrian National Coalition, who in turn sent messages to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj. However, they heard nothing about Khaled, except for a home visit to his family in Istanbul by a member of staff from the Saudi Consulate there, who told the family: “Khaled is alive and well; he is living, eating and drinking”, without giving them any further information. 12 September 2017 is thus the last day on which anything was known about Khaled.
On 1 June 2018, security forces arrested Marwan al-Muraisy from his home and transferred him to an unknown location where he was held incommunicado. To date, al-Muraisy’s family have been denied any information about him. They have not been able to see him, visit him, phone him, or know anything about his fate.
Al-Muraisy, born in 1982, moved from Yemen to Saudi Arabia in 2003 and began his professional career in journalism the following year. He has worked for several Saudi media outlets, including TV channels Al-Majd and Al-Resalah. His Twitter account has more than 100,000 followers, with his tweets focusing on his areas of specialisation, including digital media and human development. He has produced more than 30 television programmes, and has been a guest on a number of programmes dealing with technology and social media. Al-Muraisy also wrote a book, published in 2014, entitled “Sparrow’s Milk”.
There has still been no news of al-Muraisy since his arrest.
On 12 March 2018, officials dressed in civilian clothes and believed to be from Saudi Arabia’s Mabahith secret police arrested Abdulrahman al-Sadhan from his work place at the headquarters of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority in Riyadh. They confiscated his telephone before forcibly removing him and taking him to an unknown location. They did not show an arrest warrant or give any reason for the arrest. The next day, a group of men dressed in police uniform entered his place of residence by force. Sources reported that they saw men removing a laptop, a smartphone and other personal belongings as they entered and left the property. Officials also impounded his car.
Following his arrest, during April and May 2018, the Ministry of Interior’s online prison database showed no evidence that al-Sadhan had been detained. In addition, the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Security’s complaints centre said they did not have any information on al-Sadhan’s fate or whereabouts. Finally, a clerk confirmed that his name was listed in their records and that he had been arrested. The clerk gave no information as to the location at which he was being detained. The official also confirmed that al-Sadhan was under investigation, and that no one was allowed to contact or visit him. The official said that a visit would only be allowed after years, not months. Three separate requests were made to visit al-Sadhan, in April, August and October 2018, and on each occasion it was refused. The authorities said that they would not accept any future requests, but rather they would notify his family when they could visit.
On 1 November 2018, a complaint was filed with two quasi-governmental human rights agencies in Saudi Arabia: the Human Rights Commission and the National Society for Human Rights. An official of the Human Rights Commission acknowledged receipt of the complaint, and on 25 November 2018 the National Society for Human Rights said the authorities had transferred al-Sadhan to al-Ha’ir Prison.
On 14 November 2018, ALQST and MENA Rights Group submitted the case of al-Sadhan to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
On 15 March 2018, a raid was carried out on the home of Turki bin Abdulaziz al-Jasser, a Saudi journalist who had been imprisoned in the past; he was arrested and his electronic devices were confiscated from his home. Since then al-Jasser has completely disappeared. He has not been allowed visits or phone calls, and the Saudi authorities refuse to answer any inquiries about him.
The Saudi authorities must immediately reveal the fate of all those forcefully disappeared, and they must immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily arrested for their opinions. The Saudi authorities must abide by the 1992 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and should accede to the Convention, which they have so far not done.
ALQST for Human Rights
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