ALQST has learned of a number of prison inmates being moved to solitary confinement and subjected to beatings and torture after recording and posting video clips about what they have witnessed inside Saudi jails.
In their videos, the prisoners talked about the black market operating inside jails, and the way the authorities allow forbidden items into prisons and then later confiscate them. They talked about the beatings, torture and humiliation they had undergone, and the lack of any means of appealing to higher authorities or lodging complaints against their abusers. They talked about the absence of human rights, and said they had never seen any of the government or quasi-governmental bodies that the authorities claim deal with human rights. They talked about the administrative problems caused by papers and documentary evidence going astray, and other difficulties they faced, such as water cut-offs and non-delivery of their clothes and personal items. They also spoke of health problems and failures to ensure medical treatment. One prisoner spoke of being denied a visit to his mother who has thrombosis.
These videos were recorded at same the time that the UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights was on an inspection visit to Saudi Arabia on behalf of the international community. The Special Rapporteur said the authorities had prevented him from going into several of the places he had asked to visit, and from meeting a number of activists he had asked to meet. He criticised the Saudi authorities’ use of terrorism as a pretext for widescale abuses of human rights, and criticised the Saudi counter-terrorism law for classifying civil action and peaceful protest as terrorist activity. Some Saudi newspapers commented that the UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism did not properly understand the meaning of terrorism.
On a separate note, ALQST has learned of the death of prisoner A . M . H in a section of Buraidah Prison. It has also learned of a number of inmates being interrogated after ALQST published a statement concerning the spread of TB in Saudi jails, the resulting announcements and visits to prisons, and the authorities’ failure to combat the spread of the disease and protect prison inmates.
ALQST has reported previously that Saudi prisons are rife with crime, drugs, torture and mistreatment of inmates, inadequate healthcare and maladministration. It has previously reported a number of deaths of prisoners that resulted from maladministration leading to fights that claimed the lives of innocent individuals, or from diseases and poor healthcare. It has likewise published accounts of the administrative difficulties created for prisoners who have come to the end of their custodial sentences but are not released because, the authorities claim, their paperwork has gone astray. ALQST has also reported on corruption and bribery within the prison system, and the sums of money extorted from prisoners in payment for banned items that are smuggled in or even for permitted items, or in order to secure certain services or rights.
Singling out prisoners for beatings, torture and solitary confinement for recording and posting videos in which they testified to their mistreatment is further proof, on top of the authorities’ refusal to allow the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights to visit certain prisons, and the numerous testimonies that ALQST and others have documented and are published from time to time, of the poor conditions in Saudi prisons. It further demonstrates that the Saudi authorities are not serious about protecting prisoners’ lives and dignity. They just want to make cosmetic improvements in a few prison wings that they can use as model prisons, to show visitors who do not understand the purpose of prison visiting and let the authorities decide the time and place of visits, so that they write about their contrived visits without realising what goes on deep within Saudi jails.
ALQST would like to remind the Saudi authorities that activists are no longer the only ones monitoring and documenting human rights violations. What these prisoners did is contributing to the work of promoting and protecting human rights. The lack of freedom to undertake civil and human rights activity within Saudi Arabia means that prisoners and abuse victims themselves are now documenting and publicising what they are suffering, in a bold and pioneering move. The authorities should be trying to contain it by tackling the problems they are documenting rather than cracking down on them again, as they continue to do with human rights activists.