A human rights organisation has launched to defend political and civil rights in Saudi Arabia and monitor and highlight human rights violations there.
UK-based Standing Against Nefarious & Arbitrary Detention (SANAD) launched in an online conference which focussed on human rights in Saudi Arabia, especially the freedom to criticise the regime and violations perpetrated against those who have been detained, imprisoned or even disappeared.
Bilal Ithkiran, the SANAD CEO, said the organisation would “seek to identify anyone who has been detained for criticising the regime and those who have been denied due process or have had their rights violated.”
He said SANAD hopes, via peaceful means, to develop an optimistic society that looks to the future in a professional manner.
Dr Sue Conlan, a human rights activist and lawyer, said SANAD aims to establish human rights in Saudi Arabia through media awareness and to collaborate with other similar organisations and bring about legal and civil proceedings where appropriate.
“We aim to build databases on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and collate evidence and initiate legal proceedings against anyone involved in perpetrating human rights violations in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
Dr Saeed Al Ghamdi, an academic and chair of the trustees, said the organisation has launched “to support the the oppressed and push back the oppressors.” He said that the “human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is passing through a very difficult and painful time.”
He added that “the courts are dictated to by the regime” resulting in “prolonged sentences for a stance, an opinion, a tweet or a word they’ve said.”
Abdullah Al Ghamdi, a board member of SANAD, said the path ahead will be “difficult but it is not impossible.” But Al Ghamdi, whose mother is currently being unlawfully detained, ended on an optimistic note saying: “Victory will belong to those who are patient, resilient and steadfast.”
Finally, Fahad Al Ghuwaydi, who has been detained on three occasions in Saudi Arabia for his activism, said the Saudi government’s abuses can be broken down into four phases.
He said: “As a previous detainee myself, I know too well these four phases. I know all too well how they will follow you. How they will follow an individual before they’re detained. I know too well what happens inside the prisons and I know too well how you are denied your most basic of rights as a detainee. I also know too well the obsession that the detainee suffers after they are released from prison.”
Al Ghuwaydi concluded by demanding “the decreasing of pressure upon the people. We demand the release of the political detainees, who were detained oppressively.”
Amnesty International says repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly have intensified in Saudi Arabia.
“Among those harassed, arbitrarily detained, prosecuted and/or jailed were government critics, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, relatives of activists, journalists, members of the Shi’a minority and online critics of government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Amnesty says on its website.
“Virtually all known Saudi Arabian human rights defenders inside the country were detained or imprisoned at the end of the year. Grossly unfair trials continued before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) and other courts. Courts resorted extensively to the death penalty and people were executed for a wide range of crimes. Migrant workers were even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because of the pandemic, and thousands were arbitrarily detained in dire conditions, leading to an unknown number of deaths.”
Saudi Arabia does not comment extensively on its human rights record and considers it an internal matter. But in the past Saudi officials have told the United Nations that Saudi Arabia is a bastion of human rights and fights torture in all its physical and moral manifestations.