28 April 2016

Saudi Arabia: in spite of strong evidence, State delegation denies situation of torture in the country

People are sitting in a meeting room in front of microphones  and wearing headphones During its review by the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT), the delegation of Saudi Arabia portrayed a picture of respect for human rights and an enabling environment for civil society, despite all cases of torture, lack of fundamental guarantees and repression of human rights activists presented by NGOs and mentioned by the CAT experts during the review. According to the delegation, all these cases were based on “completely unfounded information”.

Based on the information provided mainly by Alkarama, the committee members expressed to the delegation their concerns about the widespread practice of torture in the country; the lack of fair trial guarantees and the admission of confessions obtained through torture in courts; the increasing use of the death penalty, especially against minors or persons with mental disabilities; the practice of torture in detention . Furthermore, the experts were greatly concerned with the repression of human rights defenders and activists and the broad definition of terrorism, which is used in practice to silence dissenting voices. To base their concerns, the experts raised several cases of human rights defenders arbitrarily detained such as Mohammad Al Qahtani and Abdulkarim Al-Khodr from the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), as well as the cases of Waleed Abu Al Khair, Raif Badawi and Fadhel Al Manasif. The experts also drew the attention of the Saudi delegation to the fact that just two days before this review, ACPRA's member Issa Al Hamid was sentenced to nine years in prison followed by a nine-year-travel ban.

Avoiding numerous questions from the committee experts, the Saudi delegation limited itself to vague and unsatisfactory responses, many of which are in clear contradiction to the situation on the ground. The numerous cases, that Alkarama documented in its report to the committee, show that the practice of torture in Saudi Arabia is widespread and systematic. The delegation claimed that all allegations of torture were immediately investigated and that confessions made under torture were rendered null and void. Furthermore, the delegation stated that Saudi prisons are correction facilities where torture is not tolerated; adding also that the country does not suffer from overcrowded prisons. Regarding the cases mentioned by the Committee members, the delegation affirmed that "all allegations were unfounded and based on unreliable sources".

Alkarama deeply regrets that Saudi Arabia did not take this opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the committee members in order to improve the situation of torture in the country. The committee members, nevertheless, did not seem convinced by the delegation’s presentation and continued to ask for detailed information on investigations into alleged cases of torture and the prosecution of human rights defenders for terrorism, as well as the practice of torture in detention.

The Saudi delegation was given 48 hours to respond to the experts’ questions in writing, after which the Committee adopts its concluding observations, making recommendations to Saudi Arabia. Alkarama hopes the Saudi authorities will provide responses to all the questions raised and will take this opportunity to put an end to torture in the country. Furthermore, we will closely follow, together with members of Saudi civil society, the implementation of the experts’ recommendations in the following years, reminding the government of their responsibility to eradicate torture.

The Committee Against Torture

After accepting to become a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) on 23 September 1997, Saudi Arabia agreed to periodically send reports to the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT), which assesses the country's compliance with its obligations under the UNCAT. Despite its commitment, Saudi Arabia submitted its second report with over four years of delay. The State’s second review took place on 22 and 25 April 2016 during the Committee’s 57th session. After suggesting numerous questions to be raised by the CAT to the delegation, on 21 April 2016, Alkarama met with the UN Committee's experts to brief them on its key concerns previously raised in its extensive report submitted to the CAT ahead of Saudi Arabia's review.

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Qatar - HR Instruments

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)


Convention against Torture (CAT)

CAT: Accessed on 11.01.2000
Optional Protocol: No
Art. 20 (Confidential inquiry): Yes
Art. 22 (Individual communications): No

State report: Due on 23.11.2016 (3rd)
Last concluding observations: 25.01.2013

International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)


Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Last review: 05.2014 (2nd cycle)
Next review: -

National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)

National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) – Status A

Last review: 10.2010
Next review: 11.2015