Saudi Arabia: Appeal to prevent imminent deportation of detained Uighur activists

  سمية حمدُ الله بن عبد الولي

The daughter of a Uighur activist detained in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Waili AIMOUDOULA, has raised her concerns over the deportation of her father and his friend, to urge them not to extradite to China, Mr. Waili AIMOUDOULA and his friend Mr. Ruze NUERMAIMAITI to the Chinese authorities, fearing they will be tortured and could lose their lives.

In a video recording, Sumayya AIMOUDOULA expressed her distress, calling for the suspension of the deportation to China of the two men. The AIMOUDOULA’s, who are living in Turkey, received information that the Saudi authorities had recently removed the two men from Dhahban prison in Jeddah to another retention center in Riyadh, in preparation for their forcible deportation to China.

On 13 January 2022, Alkarama addressed the UN Special Rapporteur on torture asking him to intervene urgently with the Saudi authorities to halt the extradition of Mr. Waili AIMOUDOULA and Mr. Ruze NUERMAIMAITI. The two Uyghurs of Muslim faith had been arrested in Mecca by the Saudi police on 20 November 2020.

Details of the arrest

Mr. Waili AIMIDOULA and Mr. Ruze NUERMAIMAITI traveled to Saudi Arabia on February 2, 2020 to perform the "Umrah" (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) but could not return to Istanbul where they live with their families due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

On November 20, 2020, Saudi police officers railed the house they were staying in Makkah and arrested them without providing any details about the reasons for their arrests before taking them to Dhahran prison in Jeddah.

On January 3, 2022, the Saudi authorities finally informed them that they would be extradited to China without providing them any explanation. Informed by a member of the Uyghur community in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Aimidoula's relatives contacted a lawyer in Istanbul who tried, in vain, to find out the reasons for his arrest and whether there were any legal proceedings underway, including extradition, at the Saudi embassy in Ankara.

Alkarama therefore called on the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to urgently intervene with the Saudi authorities to urge them to respect their commitments under the Convention against Torture and to refrain from extraditing the two victims.

Alkarama’s urgent appeal

In its urgent appeal, Alkarama stated that the possible extradition or forcible return of Mr. Aimidoula and Mr. Nuermaimaiti to China would constitute a violation by Saudi Arabia of its obligation not to expel persons under its jurisdiction to a place where they would be at risk of torture and ill-treatment, as provided for in Article 3 of the Convention against Torture, to which it is a party.

According to the Convention, « [n]o State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture » in the receiving State, particularly when a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights is established in the receiving State.

Alkarama also drew attention to the systematic and widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment in China, particularly under the pretext of terrorism, recalling the concerns expressed by the Committee against Torture during its last review. The Committee stated that it had "received numerous reports from credible sources detailing cases of torture, deaths in custody, arbitrary detention and disappearances (...)", adding that "(...) allegations have been received of acts directed against Uighurs (...)" in China.
The Committee had also called on the Chinese authorities to reform its anti-terrorism legislation in order to ensure its full compliance with the Convention.

Finally, Alkarama invoked the dire conditions of detention in China to reiterate that the rights of Mr Aimidoula and Mr Nuermaimaiti to life, health and freedom from torture and other forms of ill-treatment would be seriously violated if they were extradited.

For these reasons, the Special Rapporteur on Torture has been called upon to urgently intervene with the Saudi authorities to ensure that they respect article 3 of the Convention against Torture and that they refrain from extraditing, expelling or forcibly returning to China Mr. Waili Aimidoula and Mr. Ruze Nuermaimaiti.

As a reminder, Saudi Arabia will soon be reviewed by the Committee against Torture, which monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture by States Parties. As part of it, Alkarama will provide a second report on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.