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NHRC express deep concern over reports on deteriorating health of Qatari student detained in Saudi Arabia

Doha-based NHRC stated that according to its reliable sources, the student is being subjected to torture, negligence and isolation in a solitary confinement, receiving no medical care for his physical and emotional wellbeing.

Saudi Arabia

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Abdulaziz Saeed Abdullah, a Qatari exchange student illegally detained in Saudi Arabia has reported to have been suffering from deteriorating health in the Kingdom to which Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) has expressed deep concern on Wednesday.

Doha-based NHRC stated that according to its reliable sources, the student is being subject to torture, negligence and isolation in solitary confinement, receiving no medical care for his physical and emotional wellbeing.

Qatari student Abdulaziz Saeed Saad Halwan Abdullah was arrested by Al Mabahith State Security Forces after they raided his home in Aziziyah, Mecca.

Last month, the Saudi authorities had released a Qatari national from prison in Saudi Arabia after being arbitrarily detained for more than a year. Mohsen Saleh Saadoun al-Karbi, had been jailed by Saudi authorities since April 21, 2018.

During his time in detention, he was prohibited from contacting his family and lawyer, who were unable to identify al-Karbi’s exact place of detention or learn what the alleged charges against him entailed. In a statement following his release, NHRC called on Saudi authorities to compensate al-Karbi for the “harm suffered during his enforced disappearance”.

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It also called for the immediate release of Abdulaziz Saeed Abdullah, who has been reportedly held since July 2018 without trial. His detention came to the fore, after Saudi authorities revealed where he was detained to the forced disappearance UN working group. Quoting the sources, the NHRC stated that “the student was in solitary confinement since his detention, and is being tortured in order to force him to confess to things he didn’t commit.”

The committee called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the UN Human Rights Council to intervene immediately to end the violations of the rights of the Qatari citizen.

Doha-based NHRC stated that according to its reliable sources, the student is being subject to torture, negligence and isolation in solitary confinement.

The tragic story of a young exchange student

On July 6, 2018 Qatari student Abdulaziz Saeed Saad Halwan Abdullah was arrested by Al Mabahith State Security Forces after they raided his home in Aziziyah, Mecca. The security forces, dressed in civilian clothes with some uniformed officers raided his flat. and confiscated Abdullah’s passport, birth certificate, and registration documents.

He was then taken to Saudi State Security prosecution office, which was his last known location until January 2019. His location was unknown until the Saudi government responded to the letter published by the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, informing that Abdullah is being held in the prison of the General Directorate of Investigation in Riyadh.

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He has been continually denied family visits and has not been informed of the charges he is being held for. Additionally, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published a letter in April 2019 requesting further clarification on Abdullah’s situation. Abdullah remains in prison without trial and without knowledge of the charges against him, a clear violation of due process and international law.

Violation of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 9; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the rights to liberty and security of the person. It prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, requires any deprivation of liberty to be according to law, and obliges parties to allow those deprived of their liberty to challenge their imprisonment through the courts. These provisions apply not just to those imprisoned as part of the criminal process, but also to those detained due to mental illness, drug addiction, or for educational or immigration purposes.

Quoting the sources, the NHRC stated that “the student was in solitary confinement since his detention, and is being tortured in order to force him to confess to things he didn’t commit.”

Additionally, Articles 9.3 and 9.4 impose procedural safeguards around arrest, requiring anyone arrested to be promptly informed of the charges against them, and to be brought promptly before a judge. It also restricts the use of pre-trial detention, requiring that it not be ‘the general rule’. However, Saudi Arabia has abstained from the United Nations vote adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, saying it contradicted Sharia law- which is the national legal framework of the kingdom.

It is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which includes freedom of religion. The country holds a reservation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child against any provisions that are in conflict with sharia law. The kingdom has been carrying out airstrikes on Yemen, violating international laws and arresting anyone that criticizes them. The kingdom is known for its notorious actions against journalists, human rights activists, political opposition and citizens not abiding by their sharia compliance.

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On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi-US based journalist, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in order to deal with paperwork related to his marriage. Khashoggi was a veteran Saudi journalist who had become a vocal critic of Saudi regime, upon arrival Khashoggi was assassinated and dismembered. The killing was described as “murder” and “a tremendous mistake” by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

On 25 October 2018, one of the Saudi public prosecutors told the media that Khashoggi’s murder was “premeditated”. Moreover, Saudi Arabia continues to hold more than a dozen women’s rights activists in jail, months after a crackdown on dissent intensified last year. Most of the women in captivity campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the rights to liberty and security of the person.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had noted that the reason for the arrest is to silence the women and prevent others from participating in activism.

Qatar blockade – a Human Rights Violation

The blockade imposed on Qatar in June 2017, by its neighbouring Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt and others in Middle East and Asia Pacific over alleged support to Islamist groups, completed its two years earlier this month. The Saudi-dominated blockade accused Qatar of supporting Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Taliban in Afghanistan for committing violent activities.

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Qatar, however, maintained its stance on the Islamist groups. It has always remained neutral and it is obliged to host Taliban as part of its alliance with the US. Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia for bargaining its sovereignty in exchange for the membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to wash clean its crimes against humanity in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia remained critical of Qatar for using Al-Jazeera; a Qatari media news agency, to report against Saudi bloodshed in the Middle East to avoid the domino effect of the Arab Spring. Moreover, the UAE considered Qatar as a significant economic competitor in the Gulf in the realms of petrochemical and airline economy. Violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The killing was described as “murder” and “a tremendous mistake” by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

On June 15, 2018 Qatar filed a case against the UAE at the International Court of Justice for violating the rights of the Qatari citizens by detaining and expelling them from the UAE.  Some of the Qatari’s linked to UAE through family ties, education or property, were forced to leave the country.

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Qatar argued that the airspace, land and marine blockade that led to the expulsion of its nationals in the blockading country was a violation of ICERD, and out of all other blockading nations, UAE was also a part of it. It argued that CERD talked about discrimination on the basis of nationality as a prohibition for states party to the convention.

Therefore, Qatar accused the UAE of discriminating against the Qatari citizens living in the country, based on their nationality and for subsequently violating the obligations of CERD. The first proceeding of the ICJ on the case was held on July 23, 2018 in which the court ordered the UAE to immediately allow the Qatari citizens with familial ties to reunite with their families.

Qatari national students were asked to go back and continue their studies. The court’s order was essentially a provincial measure for the UAE to follow before the final proceedings of the case.

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