Prisoners of Conscience

Rights group call on UN to intervene to safe Al-Odah life

A Swiss human rights organization called on the United Nations to intervene and investigate the conditions of detention and torture of the Saudi preacher Dr Salman Al-Odah.

Al-Karama wrote to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, asking them to intervene with the Saudi authorities regarding the prominent Islamic preacher.

The organization also asked the UN to stop the reprisals against his family and to allow independent doctors to visit him to assess and report his condition and needs.

Al-Karama had brought the case of Sheikh Safar al-Hawali to the same Committee, but the Saudi regime continues to practice slow killing against its prominent critics.

The Saudi regime deliberately keeps arbitrary detainees in cruel and inhuman conditions, in solitary confinement, which has led to the injury of many of them with severe disabilities.

Al-Karamah, a human rights organization, previously addressed the United Nations in the case of the preacher al-Awda, who was arrested on September 9, 2017.

Al-Odah was arrested for tweeting to his 14 million followers expressing his support for mediation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“May God reconcile their hearts to what is good for their people.”

Human rights violations

Since his arbitrary detention, the authorities have kept Dr Al-Odah outside the law’s protection, with long periods of secret incommunicado detention.

He was subjected to complete solitary confinement and various other forms of physical and psychological torture.

The Saudi authorities have demonstrated their intention to punish Dr Al-Odah for refusing to comply with the Crown Prince’s request to support his policies publicly.

Prison officials deprived him of necessary medicines until January 2018, when his health deteriorated, which forced him to be rushed to the hospital due to high blood pressure that threatened his life.

His trial before the State Security Court began on September 4, 2018, when Public Prosecutor Saud Al-Mujib and his deputy Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Sabeet demanded his execution.

They charged Al-Awda with 37 vaguely defined charges related to his advocacy for human rights and political participation.

Despite his health condition and unfair trial, there are fears that Dr Al-Odah will be sentenced and executed arbitrarily and brutally.

Health deterioration

In late November 2020, Dr Al-Odah’s family learned through prison medical staff that he had suffered a severe impairment of his visual function.

It reached at least half of his previous visual ability, and therefore today he faces the risk of blindness, in light of the denial of treatment and rehabilitation.

Likewise, he had a hearing impairment assessed at more than half of his previous ability.

Meanwhile, as his health deteriorated, he was denied medical care and forced to take unidentified psychiatric medication.

Gradually, but more acutely in recent months, his family witnessed his emaciation, cognitive decline and mental fog.

The Swiss organization concluded that the Saudi authorities’ indifferent behaviour and their continued mistreatment of Dr Al-Odah only confirm their intention to kill him slowly.

Al-Karama asked the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to intervene directly with the Saudi authorities to immediately release Al-Odah as an emergency measure to confront reprisals against his family.

In any case, Al-Karama urged the Committee to ask the authorities to allow a delegation of independent doctors to secretly visit Dr Al-Odah to assess and report his condition and needs.

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