Geneva – Testimonies reveal serious violations against Palestinian and Jordanian detainees in Saudi prisons, including arbitrary detention, physical torture, isolation and deliberate medical neglect, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a brief report.
The health status of a number of Palestinian and Jordanian detainees in Saudi prisons has deteriorated. These prisoners have been detained for more than two years without regard to due judicial procedures.
More than 60 Palestinians and Jordanians residing in the Kingdom were arrested by the Saudi state security apparatus, under the pretext of financially supporting Palestinian factions. These detainees were placed in various prisons, including Al Haeer, Dhahban, Sha'ar, Dammam and Asir, and were not granted their legal defense rights.
The detainees, who are students, academics, businessmen and workers in relief institutions, have been isolated from the outside world for several months, their bank accounts have been frozen, and their money confiscated.
Testimonies of former detainees and families of current detainees indicate that the detainees were subjected to serious violations and harsh conditions of detention.
S.L. (preferred to use his initials for safety) is one of the few detainees who was released from Saudi prison after he was arrested in a detention campaign that targeted Jordanians and Palestinians: “I was detained for about 12 months in Al Haeer prison, including three months in solitary confinement. Throughout the period of my detention, no charges were presented to me, no one told me the reason for my arrest, and I was not brought before any court”.
“Prison conditions were exceedingly difficult. The prison administration used to intently disable the ventilation in the prison rooms, which are accumulated with prisoners beyond their capacity. We were only allowed to be exposed to sunlight once a month for just ten minutes.”
“It was not permissible to buy from the prison grocery store except for extremely limited things and once every three months. We were only allowed to go to the bathroom for two minutes a day. In addition, the amount of food was too small, and the quality was very poor.”
After the Saudi authorities launched a campaign of arbitrary arrests in February 2019, they launched a similar campaign in February 2020. The second campaign targeted a number of other Palestinians residing in Saudi Arabia for the same charges: “Collecting donations for the benefit of the Palestinian territories and supporting the Palestinian factions”.
The former detainee confirmed that he had been subjected to torture. He said: “I moved between different sections designated for torture inside the prison, and I also met detainees who told me that they had been beaten, suspended, electrocuted, and deprived of seeing light for months, although some of them were heart patients or have chronic diseases.”
In terms of communication with the family, he said: “We were allowed to call our families once a week for only ten minutes, but with an employee listening to the whole conversation, without the slightest regard for our privacy”.
A number of the detainees suffer extremely dangerous health conditions that are feared to worsen, especially in light of the poor detention.
The testimonies of the families of Palestinian doctor Muhammad al-Khudari, 83, and the Jordanian journalist Abd al-Rahman Farhana, 64 indicated that the health condition of both has recently deteriorated significantly as the prison administration deliberately neglect their conditions.
Abdul Majid Al-Khodari, brother of detainee Muhammad Al-Khodari, told Euro-Med Monitor about his brother's health condition in Asir prison: “My brother Muhammad suffers from prostate cancer and needs medical and health care and follow-up that is not available in the medical clinics in Saudi prisons. His condition worsened, especially in light of the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic due to medical negligence and lack of follow-up. My brother now has difficulties to walk, which made him dependent on a wheelchair. Some of his teeth fell out, and he cannot move his right hand”.
“The cancerous tumor has grown again due to willful negligence and the lack of treatment or medical specialization required in Saudi prisons. I finally brought my brother to the prison clinic, which lacks the facilities that are supposed to be in the medical clinic in a normal situation, and no noticeable medical assistance was provided.”
About the health of detainee Abd al-Rahman Farhana inside Saudi prison, a relative of the Jordanian detainee told Euro-Med Monitor: “Abd al-Rahman suffers from several diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes and poor brain perfusion, as he was prevented from taking the necessary medicines during his detention. During the arrest, his eyeglasses were broken, and the prison authorities did not allow him to wear glasses even until now”.The Saudi authorities began mass secret trials of Palestinian and Jordanian detainees on March 8, 2020, at the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh.The trials lasted for a whole year, spread over 14 sessions, at a rate of 3 - 5 detainees per session. During the sessions the court charged the detainees with a set of charges including affiliation with a terrorist entity and aiding a terrorist entity, without explaining the form or details of this entity.
On February 15, the last session of these trials was held, and the verdict hearing was supposed to take place two weeks after the last session, but suddenly the court postponed the decision for four full months, setting the date to next June 21.
Euro-Med Monitor’s MENA Regional Manager Anas Aljerjawi said that “the decision to postpone is not understood in a legal term, especially since the trials took a long time, and originally began after a year of detention without trial or giving the detainees the tools of defense that are legally guaranteed to them”.“All charges against the detainees are based on a set of articles contained in the Saudi Anti-Terrorism Law of 2017, which includes vague and overbroad definitions of terrorism and related activities, which reinforce assumptions that the Saudi authorities intend to use these materials to incriminate the accused,” Aljerjawi added.
The arbitrary practices against detainees violate relevant international laws, as well as the Arab Charter for Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia ratified in 2009, guaranteeing detainees the right to freedom and the right to litigation within a reasonable time.
The Saudi authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the detainees, provide urgent medical and health care to those who are sick, and stop all violations and arbitrary measures against them.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention should urgently intervene to uncover the fate of the detainees, examine the conditions and reasons for their detention, and investigate their exposure to serious violations inside prisons.