International human rights groups have called for sanctions on a Saudi minister involved in torture violations at the Ritz-Carlton hotel and the persecution of Saudi citizens.
The Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) organization stated that the U.S. Department of the Treasury should impose sanctions on Mohammed bin Abdul Malik Al Al-Sheikh, the Saudi State Minister, head of the Saudi Intellectual Property Authority, and a close advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for his role in grave human rights violations.
The organization mentioned that Al Al-Sheikh was involved in supervising the infamous events at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2017-2018, which included torture, arrests, and illegal confiscation of assets belonging to more than 400 Saudi businessmen, former government officials, and royal family members.
On July 14, DAWN officially requested the U.S. Department of the Treasury to impose Magnitsky Act sanctions on Al Al-Sheikh.
Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director of DAWN, said, “Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh played a significant role in carrying out Mohammed bin Salman’s dirty work, overseeing the torture and mistreatment of his fellow Saudi citizens, and Mohammed bin Salman has generously rewarded him for his crimes against Saudi citizens.”
She added, “The least the U.S. government can do is hold him accountable by imposing Magnitsky Act sanctions on him, which are specifically designed to punish and deter these kinds of violations.”
On February 23, DAWN released a report documenting the violations committed by Al-Sheikh, primarily related to the arbitrary arrests, torture, and confiscation of assets from approximately 400 Saudi businessmen, former government officials, and royal family members.
One of the victims, Salem Al-Mazaini, identified Al Al-Sheikh as the high-ranking official who ordered the illegally confiscating of his assets. At the same time, he was detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel between November 2017 and January 2018.
Al-Mazaini stated that Al Al-Sheikh was present during his interrogation and torture sessions. Two other individuals detained and tortured by Saudi state security forces for their peaceful activism in 2018 identified Al Al-Sheikh as a prominent figure present during their torture and interrogation sessions.
According to DAWN, Al-Mazaini’s family members confirmed his account, stating that Al Al-Sheikh was present during the sessions and that he ordered the illegal seizure of Al-Mazaini’s assets.
Ten officers from the Royal Diwan, the State Security Presidency, and other Saudi officials were identified by Al-Mazaini as being involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and participating in the torture and physical abuse he endured.
Months after his initial release on January 18, 2018, the effects of torture were still evident on Al-Mazaini’s body, as documented in the attached photographs presented in his written testimony.
During this time, his nails continued to fall out due to repeated beatings on his feet and hands. The sources stated that Al-Mazaini was suffering from anxiety and shock as a result of his arrest and torture.
Two other individuals, whose identities remain protected to ensure their safety, stated that they were detained by Saudi security forces in 2018 and tortured due to their peaceful activities.
They reported identifying Al Al-Sheikh from his appearance during their torture sessions, noting that despite the mask covering most of his face, they recognized his voice, which matched the voice of Al Al-Sheikh they knew before their imprisonment.
They stated that Al Al-Sheikh was heard instructing his assistant, Indian national Hanadi Al-Suhaimi, to transfer Al-Mazaini’s money and assets, including the joint ownership of Sky Prime Aviation, to the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
This included two private planes that were transferred from Sky Prime to the Public Investment Fund and were later used by Mohammed bin Salman’s assassination team that killed and dismembered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.
The individuals also identified ten Royal Diwan officers, State Security Presidency personnel, and other Saudi officials involved in Khashoggi’s murder and implicated them in Al-Mazaini’s torture and physical abuse.
After months of his initial release on January 18, 2018, the effects of torture were still evident on Al-Mazaini’s body, as documented in the attached photographs presented in his written testimony.
During this time, his nails continued to fall out due to repeated beatings on his feet and hands. According to the same sources, Al-Mazaini was suffering from anxiety and shock as a result of his arrest and torture.
Riad Jarar, Advocacy Director at DAWN, said, “The nature and scale of Al Al-Sheikh’s violations, including arbitrary detention, torture, and the confiscation of hundreds of Saudis’ assets, require strict action from the Biden administration.”
Jarar added that imposing sanctions on Al Al-Sheikh would send an important message to U.S. partners and allies that the Biden administration has not entirely abandoned human rights in its foreign policy.
Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh is a close advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Following his role in the torture and human rights abuses at the Ritz-Carlton, Mohammed bin Salman appointed him as the head of the Saudi Intellectual Property Authority and a member of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs on November 13, 2020.
He also served as the Minister of State and a member of the Council of Ministers since January 24, 2015. Previously, he was appointed the head of the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority in April 2017 and served as the Chairman of the Saudi Capital Market Authority from 2013 to 2017.