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Saudi Arabia: An appeal to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to protect the prisoners of al-Hayer, and a violent intervention by the Emergency Forces

Mr Ali bin Abdullah bin Ali al-Zamel, a brother of a prisoner in al-Hayer, sent an appeal letter to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and members of the Saudi ruling class, to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to local human rights organisations, asking them all to intervene in order to protect the prisoners of al-Hayer who have been in a sit-in for many weeks, and to respond to their legitimate demands which Alkarama had espoused, particularly releasing prisoners of arbitrary detentions which fill the Kingdom's prisons. Mr Ali al-Zamel's brother, Mr Fahd Abdullah Ali al-Zamel has been a prisoner of al-Hayer prison ward number 3 for nine years without any legal proceedings.
Mr Ali al-Zamel was one of a group of relatives of the prisoners whom the Saudi authorities invited to mediate with their relatives to end the sit-in. At the end of the visit, government officials tried to pressure the families to sign a document stating that they tried to persuade their relatives to end the sit-in to no avail, but the families refused to do so regarding such an action as a green light to the officials to behave as they wish against the prisoners.

The families' fears were realised, and according to the latest reports that Alkarama received, more than 400 members of the Emergency Forces raided the blockaded areas of the prison yesterday (Sunday) using water trunks, stun grenades and tear gas, after they had cut off the water supply and blocked the supply of food for many days in order to exhaust the prisoners before attacking them. The security forces controlled the prison entirely according to various reports leaving many wounded, most of them seriously, especially the prisoners of ward number 3.

The families of the victims went to the public prosecutor's office on Saturday asking him to intervene to help protect their imprisoned relatives after they saw intensive movements by the security forces, but he did not respond to their demands, and he evicted them.

Here is the text of the letter:

The letter was sent to the Investigating committee and the special prosecutor by Express mail:


In the name of God the merciful

12 August 2012

Subject: A report of the violations of human rights in al-Hayer prison, in particular ward number 3, where prisoners are protesting against ill-treatment and against depriving their colleagues of medical treatment to such an extent that their lives have become endangered. This report also applies to the rest of the old and new prison, demanding that all prisoners of all wards are protected.

Copies with compliments to:

• King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz

• The Interior Minister, Prince Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz

• High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay.

• The United Nations Working group on Arbitrary detentions

• The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture.

• The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Protection of Human rights while countering terrorism.

• The UN Human Rights committee

• National organisation for Human Rights

• Saudi Civil and Political rights Organisation

To : Head of The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution

Peace be with you

Given that supervising Saudi prisons, applying the law, and protecting the rights of the accused and prisoners are among the core duties of the The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, as stated in article 39 of the Law on punitive measures:

"Anyone who knows about a prisoner or detainee who has been arrested illegally or detained in secret, must inform The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution. A bureau member must then immediately visit the detention site, and carry out an investigation, and order their release if they were detained arbitrarily, and must then prepare a report to the relevant authorities to prosecute whoever caused such an arbitrary detention to take place"

It is also the duty of The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution to supervise prison conditions as stated in article 3 paragraph one :

"...Supervise and inspect the prisons, detention centres, and any places where punitive measures are carried out, to listen to the complaints of the prisoners and detainees, and to investigate the legitimacy of their detention or imprisonment, including detention after sentences have expired. Take out the necessary steps to release anyone who has been detained arbitrarily, and prosecute whoever caused this to take place. Inform the minister of the interior of any such incidents, and report to him at six month intervals on the state of prisoners and detainees".

And according to the Interior Minister's directive number 49361 dated 2/8/1432 Year of Hijrah, and addressed to the head of The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution which comes under the General Directorate of Investigation, and in accordance with the Law on punitive measures and the charter of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution :

I inform you that I, Ali Abdullah bin Ali al-Zamel, was called by The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in order to arrange for me to visit my brother Fahd who has been detained in al-Hayer prisoner ward number 3 for nearly 9 years without being able to exercise his legal rights.

When I arrived at the prison, and following the verification of my identify and that of my host, I was admitted to the visitors section, then a military police car transported us inside the prison, accompanied by a human rights representatives (His initials are K F). He played a strange role which is contrary to our previous experience with human rights organisations who are careful to respect the law and protect the rights of the accused and the rights of prisoners, and who take a neutral role in similar local and international situations. We were also accompanied by an administrative member of the prison. There were three of us who were family members.

We entered the prison, and the officer then asked us to accompany him to ward number 2 so that he can show us as for the sake of comparison the degree of discipline in this ward compared with ward number 3. Ward number 2 was very quiet which made us suspicious, and we complained that we are being deliberately shown a solitary ward, since every cell contained a solitary prisoner except the last cell which contained 4 prisoners according to one of the detainees in that cell who told us this when we asked him.

We then went to ward number 3 where I was shocked and I cried bitterly for what I saw as it was blockaded by the prisoners and I saw 15 gallows on the wall. When I asked my brother about them, he said that they were put to protect the prisoners from the Emergency Forces, to be used if they were attacked or if the prisoners demands are not met. I could not at first understand this. How could they do this when they are knowledgeable people and believers in God. I started to understand their position when they explained to me their previous severe and multiple beatings by the Emergency Forces each time they entered the prisons, and the unrelenting repression and injustice in the prison that led them to such desperate actions. These are the prisoner demands:

• Releasing female prisoners, given that they have been arbitrarily detained.

• Releasing those prisoners whose sentences have expired.

• Releasing sick prisoners, specially those that are terminally ill such as cancer patients, who suffer due to the negligence of the prison administration.

• Completing outstanding trials, and releasing those who have not been tried and wasted years in detention in contravention of Sharia law and local and international laws.

In God's name, are these not legitimate and legally sound demands?

The detainees told me in one voice, that an attack on the ward by the Emergency Forces will have terrible consequences on both parties of the conflict. The families of the detainees also told me that they will react should their relatives be harmed and that the authorities will be responsible for the explosive situation and for matters reaching this state, given the injustice that their detained family members have suffered, as they have been deprived of their legal rights.

At the end of the visit, the officer asked us to stay in the visitors waiting room, and he called us one by one, in order to ask us to sign a document prepared on plain paper (not an official paper that indicates any government agency). The content of the document was that I visited my brother and attempted to convince him to end the sit-in but he did not agree. This is a blatant lie, as I did not discuss this with him, and my main concern was to get assurance for his condition particularly that we heard about injuries since the start of the protest when the Emergency Forces entered the prison.

I am surprised at such illegal and immoral behaviour from an official security organisation whose task should be to apply the law, so how can we trust such institutions and such officials!! I refused to sign and I told them that this is an incorrect and unofficial document and a condemnation, as if you are asking me to give you a green light to do what you wish with my brother, which is impossible for me to do, and I refused to acknowledge this document in any way.

The officer and the human rights representative (K.F) then attempted to convince me to sign this document. This is quite a strange behaviour by the human rights representative. How can he accept that this letter is presented in his presence, and the way we are pressured to sign, and not only that, but he is assisting the officers in their transgression, when he should be inclined to respect the law which guarantees the rights of the accused and the rights of prisoners. We were finally allowed to leave feeling very apprehensive about the fate of our relatives as if we were saying goodbye to them for the last time.

I inform you in this letter, as a concerned citizen, that the situation has become explosive, and the families of the prisoners have lost faith in the officials, after they had tried all avenues, including the ministry of the interior, and have gathered , men and women, at the Royal Palace, the Royal Court, the ombudsman, the bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, the scholars offices, the government human rights organisation, and the national organisation for human rights, mediation by prominent figures, scholars and patriots, all to no avail. The families were arrested including men, women and children, because they asked that violations of human rights against their relatives should come to an end in the political prisons. May God help us.

Finally, I ask the The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution to intervene and carry out its duties, and open an investigation regarding the transgressions and contraventions of procedures against the detainees and prosecute the instigators of such transgressions, to treat the prisoners fairly, and apply the laws which give rights to the accused and the prisoners. If the Bureau were to refrain from doing this, then it is partner to the security forces in these breaches, and is responsible for what may befall the prisoners of physical or psychological harm.

I stress, as do all the families of the prisoners, the demands of the protesting prisoners (against ill-treatment and depriving their colleagues from medical treatment) in al-Hayer prison wards number 3 and 7, and other wards of the old and new prison. We demand the following :

• Transferring sick prisoners in the political prisons, particularly those that have serious diseases such as cancers, to specialist hospitals immediately.

• Releasing prisoners whose sentences have expired, as there is no legal reason to detain them.

• Releasing all those that have been arrested without trial, as their detentions are arbitrary and against the Law on punitive measures which states in article 114 that precautionary detention cannot exceed six months in duration, following which the detained person must be referred to the court for trial or released. Although this was extended to one year in a royal decree, many of the prisoners have been detained for longer periods, and must be released by law.

• Expediting the trials of those that are facing trials, or whose cases have been referred to the courts, helping them to appoint a lawyer, and ensuring that the trials are open to the families, legal practitioners and independent media. The Law on punitive measures should be followed in the trials, meaning that the specialised criminal court should not ignore breaches of the law by the security forces, and should not admit confessions that were obtained by using compulsion or torture, and should not admit interrogations that took place without the presence of a lawyer.

• Many families are worried about their detained family members, particularly those that are detained in wards number 3 and number 7, and other wards of the new and old prison. Many could not contact their relatives, so we demand that families are able to contact their relatives immediately and are allowed to visit them urgently. We demand that the Bureau offers guarantees to the protesting prisoners to protect them from the security forces and the Emergency Forces after meeting their demands, and that it should inform the families of these guarantees and procedures, and that it should intensify communications on a weekly basis between the families and the detainees, so that they can be assured of their conditions.

Best Regards

Ali bin Abdullah bin Ali al-Zamel

al-Hayer prison

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