Prisoners of Conscience

The Saudi opposition condemns the targeting and arrests of visitors to Saudi Arabia and its holy sites

The Saudi opposition National Gathering Party condemned the arbitrary Saudi arrests of visitors to the Kingdom and the Two Holy Mosques, some of whom are Uyghurs, and the initiation of procedures for their deportation to China.

In a press statement, the party pointed out the danger of deporting the Uyghurs, as the Chinese authorities are carrying out extensive campaigns of arbitrary arrests, brutal torture, and severe repression against the Uyghur minority because of their religious affiliation.

“While we condemn the repression and persecution of the Chinese authorities against the Uyghurs, we condemn any cooperation with them in their crimes, and we see that what the Saudi authorities are doing is a direct contribution to the repressive campaigns against the Uyghurs.”

The party stressed the necessity of stopping the deportation of detainees, especially Uyghurs, releasing them immediately and allowing them to leave for a safe country.

The party renewed solidarity and support for the Uyghur people in their legitimate demands and the need to stop persecution and discrimination against the Uyghur minority.

It stressed that these unjust measures were issued by illegitimate tyrannical authorities that do not represent the Saudi people and their positions on just issues, “Our people are forbidden from freedom of expression and from expressing sympathy for just issues.”

The party concluded that the Saudi authorities are using their lands and holy places as a trap for activists and those wanted by other countries, calling on everyone to be careful when travelling to Saudi Arabia and to consider that.

Saudi Arabia has a black record of violations of the forcible deportation of immigrants, whether migrant workers or persecuted by their country’s governments, such as Uyghur Muslims.

United Nations human rights experts have expressed concern that the Saudi authorities have arrested two Chinese citizens of the Uyghurs since November 2020 without legal justification and intend to deport them to China.

The Special Rapporteurs noted that both Nuermiti Rose and Willie Aimedola left the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in 2016 due to arbitrary detention and torture risks.

In a statement signed by the Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed, the experts called on Saudi Arabia to fulfil its obligations not to extradite citizens due to fears that they would be subject to serious human rights violations if returned.

The rapporteurs emphasized that the prohibition of refoulement is absolute and non-derogable under international human rights and refugee law.

The statement also states that in light of the credible risk of serious violations, whether due to belonging to an ethnic or religious minority, Saudi Arabia is required to conduct an individual, impartial and independent assessment of risks and provide prompt and transparent access to guarantees, including the ability to appeal the decision to deport.

The rapporteurs cautioned that any derogation from the principle of non-refoulment would constitute a flagrant violation of international human rights and refugee law, regardless of a bilateral agreement on extradition or diplomatic guarantees.

In addition, the Special Rapporteurs expressed their alarm at information indicating that the two men were transferred to Riyadh for possible extradition on 16 March 2022 and then were returned to the detention centre in Jeddah, where they were held incommunicado for at least 12 days.

They emphasized that prolonged solitary confinement can lead to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and can constitute a form of such treatment. They also expressed their concern about the information about reprisals against the families of the two men residing in Saudi Arabia.

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