Prisons in Saudi Arabia

Prisons in Saudi Arabia

Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General
United Nations
New York, New York
United States

31 January 2005

Dear Secretary General Annan,

We would like to draw your attention to the extremely deteriorating situation in the prisons of Saudi Arabia. The lives of several hundreds detainees on hunger strike since 25 December 2004 are threatened.

This hunger strike originated from the hard detention conditions of the political prisoners who have been denied any legal protection and the minimal rights granted to ordinary detainees. Their detention violates the provisions of the internal law of Saudi Arabia, whose implementation is one of the demands of the hunger strikers, as well as resolution 43/173, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1988, which enshrines the body of principles for the protection of all persons under to any form of detention or imprisonment. Specifically, principles 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16.1 , 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 29, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37 and 38 are not applied to the detainees in Saudi Arabia prisons.

We would like to draw your attention to the fact that these institutions are officially managed by the interior ministry, and especially the intelligence services directorate, which is in charge of conducting the investigation and routine judicial procedures when they exist.
Neither the ministry of Justice, nor the judicial authority enjoy the power to oversee or control these prisons.

The indefinite hunger strike, which started in Al Hayr prison on 25 December 2004, is currently spreading to other prisons on the country for the same causes and demands. The first demand is for a humane treatment and the respect of the dignity of man.

The main grievances articulated by the strikers before the official authorities are:
1. Keeping in detention many prisoners who have completed their sentence, for more than one and a half years in some cases;
2. More than 400 people are being detained for a period ranging from 6 months to 2 years without any legal action processed against them;
3. A number of prisoners have been arrested only for their political opinions critical either of the government or the political situation in the region.

It is very alarming that some persons have been detained for many years without any charge or judgement or legal process of any kind. For instance, Mr Walid Al-Sinani and his son, Rabi’ Al Sinani, have been detained in Al Hayr prison since 1994, i.e. for more than ten years, without any legal action or judgement whatsoever.

The main demands conveyed by the detainees to the official authorities are:
1. The release of all the prisoners who completed their sentences and their compensation for their arbitrary detention beyond the sentence;
2. The release of all persons detained for more than 6 months without any charge or trial or appearance before any judicial body, as well as their compensation and rehabilitation;
3. The safeguard of the right of every prisoner to have the assistance of a lawyer before and during the trial;
4. The appearance of detainees before independents and fair judges;
5. The prosecution of state agents involved in the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments of detainees, and the authorities’ recognition of the fundamental right of detainees to challenge the abuses before the courts;
6. The setting up of an independent and impartial commission, made up of legal experts and independent personalities who enjoy moral authority, to visit the detainees, listen to their grievances and inspect their living conditions;
7. The setting up of an independent body, made up of members of the Consultative Assembly, lawyers and even judges, in charge of inspecting the legal adequacy of the processes involved in the preliminary investigations;
8. The effective implementation of the Royal decree No 39 of 16 December 2001 with regard to the organisation of the penal procedures for political detainees.

These demands are evidently in accordance with the universal rights recognised as the minimum rights needed to protect all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment.

The hunger strikers are determined to assert what they rightly regard as fundamental rights of the human person. It is to be greatly feared that there will be loss of life. Several of them have already been taken to hospital in very serious conditions. Two of them had tried to immolate themselves.

It is therefore our moral duty to insist, once again and strongly, on the urgency to approach the Saudi Arabian authorities to urge them to apply the principles for the protection of persons under any form of detention or imprisonment adopted by the General Assemble of the United Nations.

Respectfully yours,

For Karama Association
For the Arab Commission for Human Rights
Geneva Representative
Maitre Rachid Mesli
Dr Haytham Manna