Report: Human rights situation in Saudi Arabia getting worse

Mohammed bin Salman Editorial credit: Matias Lynch /

A Saudi human rights organisation based in the UK has said human rights violations in the kingdom are on the rise despite numerous warnings from international human rights organisations.

In its annual human rights report covering 2021, Sanad said the Saudi authorities have not yet realised the dangers of continuing their brutal policies of repression against academics, intellectuals, activists, jurists and journalists.

“The incessant heinous practices of human rights violations and the continued policy of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and brutal torture inside prisons confirms that the Saudi regime is adamant to continue to pursue these policies in managing the country,” the report said.

“This is in addition to depriving detainees of their basic rights, as well as the deliberate medical negligence they are subjected to inside detention centres. Moreover, the clear legal imbalance in dealing with detainees’ cases, including their arbitrary arrest without a warrant or judicial order; the conditions of their detention and enforced disappearance; and the sham trials that lack the most basic standards of justice, in addition to the unfair and lengthy sentences issued against some, or the prosecution threatening the public by imposing the above on those who merely exercised their natural right to express an opinion.”

The report added that:

  • The Saudi judiciary lacks the basic legal and criminal standards in dealing with prisoners of conscience in the kingdom.
  • Saudi authorities have delayed the trial of a large number of prisoners of conscience, postponing some without giving any valid reason or justification. An example of this is the trial of Dr Salman al-Ouda, which has been stalled and postponed for nearly three years. The same is true with detainees Dr Hassan Farhan al-Maliki and the journalist Zuhair Qutbi.
  • The Public Prosecution has demanded the death penalty for a number of scholars and thinkers, such as Dr Salman al-Ouda, Dr Awad al-Qarni, Dr Ali al-Omari and Dr Hassan Farhan al-Maliki.
  • Cases of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances have continued throughout 2021. Sanad has monitored more than 30 cases of arbitrary arrests in Saudi Arabia during 2021, where more than 80% were subjected to enforced disappearance for periods ranging between two weeks and five months.
  • In 2021, prison conditions in Saudi Arabia were still tragic, brimming with cases of torture and neglect against prisoners of conscience.

“In 2021, the brutality of the regime continued to haunt detainees, even after their release. Indeed, their freedom is withheld and their voices suppressed. They cannot speak nor express their opinions, and their freedom of movement is restricted by preventing them from traveling. They are spied on and their movements are tracked,” Sanad said.

Among other things, Sanad is recommending that the international community pressure the Saudis to release political detainees and human rights activists and stop travel bans against them.

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It is also calling on the international community to stop all forms of political and military support for the Saudi regime.

Saudi Arabia does not comment on the human rights situation in the country but has told the United Nations that it rejects attempts to politicise human rights issues, specifically by countries that commit human rights violations and criticise others.

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