SAUDI ARABIA: UN EXPERTS CONDEMN AUTHORITIES OVER DETAINED RESEARCHER AND ACADEMIC SAFAR AL-HAWALI
Following a complaint filed by Alkarama, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued its Opinion No. 26/2023 regarding Dr Safar bin Abdulrahman Al Hawali, concluding that his deprivation of liberty was arbitrary and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Working Group urged the Government of Saudi Arabia to take urgent measures to secure the immediate release of Mr. Al Hawali and to grant him an enforceable right to compensation in accordance with international law. It urged the Government of the Kingdom to take the necessary steps to remedy Mr. Al Hawali's situation without delay and to bring it into line with relevant international standards, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Working Group reiterates its adoption of the 17-page decision following its correspondence with the Saudi Government, which sent a belated response citing its non-ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The UN experts relied on information provided by Alkarama about Mr. Al Hawali's arrest, which came in the context of a widespread campaign of arrests of academics, scholars, activists and lawyers from the Islah movement calling for human rights and political participation and rejects Western tutelage in the Arab world and the establishment of military bases in the region.
Following the discussion of Saudi government's responses, the Working Group refuted those arguments and condemned the authorities for the violations against Mr. Al Hawali, including enforced disappearance, lack of fair trial guarantees, violation of his right to freedom of expression and his right to equality before the law. The experts rejected the authorities' claims that Mr. Al Hawali's arrest was motivated by their commitment to counter-terrorism. They recognised that he was targeted and ill-treated solely due to his peaceful views in publicly criticising his country’s policies.
The Working Group recommended the Government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It also urged the Government to ensure a full and independent investigation into the conditions of arbitrary detention and deprivation of liberty and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for violating his rights.
The Working Group urged the Government of Saudi Arabia to amend their laws, specifically the Law on Combating Terrorism and the Financing of Terrorism and those related to the Specialized Criminal Court, to adhere to due process and fair trial standards, as per the findings of the Working Group's Opinion concerning this case and the country's international law responsibilities.
The case has also been referred by the Working Group to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression for appropriate action. In addition, the Working Group requested the Government to publish this opinion.
Committee for People with Disabilities
Earlier, following a complaint from Alkarama, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has called on the Saudi authorities to immediately release prominent religious scholar Safar bin Abdulrahman Al Hawali.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had asked the Saudi authorities, among other things, to "take steps for the immediate release of Mr Al Hawali". This release should guarantee his safety and the adoption of all necessary precautions to avoid any potential harm. In addition, the State should ensure that Mr Al Hawali receives appropriate medical care at home or in any other medical facility of his choice.
As a clear form of reprisals and punishment against Mr. Al Hawali and his relatives, the Saudi authorities have repeatedly refused to respond to requests made by the Committee first in November 2020 and again in December 2022.