Saud House Crimes

United Nations: Counter-terrorism is a pretext for arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia

A senior UN official confirmed that the Saudi authorities use the fight against terrorism as a pretext for arbitrary detention and prohibition of freedom of opinion and expression.

Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ni Ulin, said that Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that continues to violate human rights and practices secret detention under the pretext of combating terrorism.

The UN Rapporteur published a report within the work of the 49th session of the Human Rights Council on global practices related to secret detention to follow up on a study presented in 2010 on combating terrorism and human rights.

The report sheds light on the abject failure to implement the recommendations of that study and its tragic and profound consequences for individuals who have been systematically subjected to torture, cross-border rendition, arbitrary detention and deprivation of their most basic rights.

The report indicated that more than two decades of impunity followed the events that led to the study. The Rapporteur also emphasized that the failure to implement the 2010 recommendations made by the Special Procedures has enabled and facilitated ongoing human rights violations in the name of combating terrorism worldwide.

The report indicated that new cross-border transfer methods were developed at this time to circumvent the required legal protection measures, including non-refoulement, mass detention without due process by certain countries has been normalized as an exception to trial proceedings involving terrorism charges.

The report documented the use of secret detention by Saudi Arabia and other countries and justified this with the rhetoric of combating terrorism at the national and regional levels.

He pointed out that the special procedures and rapporteurs are following up with the Saudi government on many of these issues, which they justify under the pretext of national security.

The report documented ten cases of individuals in Saudi Arabia who were secretly arrested under the pretext of terrorism, including Saud Al-Hashemi, Musa Al-Qarni and others. It also stopped the cases of individuals of Saudi nationality who were subjected to violations in other countries under the pretext of combating terrorism.

The report concluded by emphasizing the inadmissibility of secret arrest, rendition, incommunicado detention, disappearance, arbitrary detention, and related torture practices and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law.

The Special Rapporteur made several recommendations to states, including: 

  • Enacting clear and explicit domestic legislation prohibiting the practice of secret and other forms of unofficial detention;
  • Prosecute all individuals who have participated in the secret detention of persons and any unlawful acts committed during such detention, including their superiors, if they order, encourage or consent to secret detentions
  • Seeking to protect citizens who are subjected to secret detention in other countries through consular assistance

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights highlighted that Saudi Arabia uses the pretext of combating terrorism for widespread violations against individuals, including male and female activists, leading to arbitrary sentences, including the death penalty.

It stated that the United Nations reports had confirmed the impurities of the anti-terrorism law approved by the Saudi government and its wide-ranging uses, and the violations that affect individuals under trial, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and denial of the right to self-defense, among others.

The organization warned that the Saudi government uses the accusation of terrorism to criminalize peaceful practices, and recently, on March 12, 2022, it executed 81 people en masse. Although many of those executed did not face more serious charges, Saudi Arabia accused all of them of terrorism.

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