On 15 September 2016, Erin Sigmon, ADHRB’s Advocacy Associate, delivered an oral intervention at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council under item 3 on the Emirati government’s use of enforced disappearances & issue of debt bondage in Saudi Arabia

Please continue reading for full remarks or click here to download a PDF.

Esteemed Rapporteurs,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain would like to thank you both for the important work of your mandates in combating enforced disappearances and contemporary slavery worldwide. Yet, we are concerned about abuses relating to both of your mandates, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

For example, the United Arab Emirates regularly practices enforced disappearance for terms of months or even years. The UAE forcibly disappeared Salim Al-Aradi, a Libyan-Canadian businessman, and his brother Mohamed for 505 days beginning in August, 2014. Last year, security forces also arrested Emirati economist, Nasser bin Ghaith, and disappeared him for over eight months in the UAE’s system of secret prisons, after he criticized the government. In addition to disappearing the men, the UAE also held them all incommunicado for lengthy periods during detention.

We urge all states, including the UAE to end the practice of enforced disappearances.

With regard to contemporary forms of slavery, we welcome the report of Ms. Bhoola and totally agree with her assessment of debt bondage as a significant concern in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman due to their operation of the Kafala system. Contrary to requests we have heard in the Council by one of these states, for you to correct this “misinformation” and to “delete” your reference to Saudi Arabia in your report, we share your concern over the situation of debt bondage in Saudi Arabia. We are also particularly concerned with the role of recruitment agencies who often deceive migrant workers with contracts that inevitably bind workers to their employers.

We also urge all states, including Saudi Arabia, to rigorously combat modern forms of slavery and debt bondage. Honorable Rapporteurs, we ask: what recommendations would you make to states to begin transitioning away from systematic use of enforced disappearance in secret prisons; and, how should governments like Saudi Arabia reform their practices to more effectively combat debt bondage?

Thank you.