Saudi Arabia: Allow immediate contact with human rights defender held incommunicado, UN expert urges (Press Release)

GENEVA (9 November 2022) – The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said today she is increasingly concerned for the health, and life, of imprisoned Saudi human rights defender Mohammad Al-Qahtani, who is reportedly being kept incommunicado after his family filed a complaint about attacks on him by inmates.

Al-Qahtani is a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, which was dissolved in 2013. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison that year for allegedly providing false information to outside sources, including UN human rights mechanisms.

“I am concerned at reports that his family has lost communication with Mohammad Al-Qahtani since 23 October 2022, after filing a complaint about attacks on him by other inmates,” the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said. “I am calling on the relevant authorities in Saudi Arabia to inform his family of his whereabouts and current state of health, and to allow access by his family and lawyers.”

Al-Qahtani has repeatedly protested against ill treatment while serving his sentence in Al-Ha’ir Reformatory Prison in Riyadh, and since May 2022, he has complained about attacks by other prisoners. Prison authorities have refused his request to be transferred.

The expert said she is gravely concerned about the use of incommunicado detention as it represents a violation of detainees’ rights under international law. “Such methods give rise to grave concerns for the personal integrity of detainees, as they run a heightened risk of being subjected to ill-treatment and torture when all contact with the outside world has been blocked.”

The Special Rapporteur is in contact with the relevant authorities about the case.

ENDS

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