During its 20th Session in July-September 2018, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) issued a decision on the case of Saudi national Munir Al Adam finding Saudi Arabia in violation of its obligations under the CPRD and calling upon the kingdom to provide him with effective remedies, including an investigation into his claims of torture. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), who served as co-representatives on behalf of Munir, welcome the Committee’s Decision, and support its findings that Saudi Arabia has violated its treaty obligations, and the human rights of Mr. Al Adam.
Munir Al Adam is a Saudi citizen who was arrested and tortured in 2012. Security forces beat him so severely during this torture that he permanently lost hearing in one ear. After pre-trial detention of more than three years, during which he was denied access to legal counsel, Munir was convicted and sentenced to death in the Specialized Criminal Court – the court system used to prosecute crimes of state security – using statements and confessions that had been coerced through torture. Among the charges against him were participating in “violent acts” at a protest in 2012 and “sending texts.” His death sentence was upheld on appeal in May 2017, and confirmed by the High Court on 23 July 2017. As such, he has exhausted all domestic remedies, and is at imminent risk of execution.
Munir suffered an injury as a child which caused partial loss of hearing in his right ear. On 8 April 2012, Saudi security forces arrested him and transported him to the Al-Qatif police station, where security force officials tortured him. He was tortured again two weeks later in the General Directorate of Investigation in Al Dammam, a detention facility overseen by the Ministry of Interior – the government body most responsible for human rights abuses like arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture. This time, the torturers kicked him on the face and body repeatedly, which caused his hearing impairment to worsen. He asked for medical attention, which the Saudi authorities denied for more than four months. In August 2012, a doctor in the military hospital confirmed his accelerated hearing loss and informed the prison administration that urgent surgery was necessary. The prison administration ignored this advice, and continued to neglect Munir’s condition for a further six months, resulting in complete and irreversible loss of hearing in his right ear.
ADHRB and ESOHR submitted Munir’s case to the CRPD in 2016, citing violations of Articles 4, 15, 16, and 25 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in access to justice, as well as torture and ill treatment, and require States to assist victims of violence and provide health care to persons with disabilities. Despite multiple opportunities and requests from the Committee, the only response by the Saudi government was to object to the case’s admissibility before the CRPD, and they failed to respond to any of the substance of the complaint. After the High Court confirmed Munir’s death sentence, the CRPD requested a stay of execution for Mr. Al Adam while his case was under consideration.
During its 20th Session in September 2018, the Committee reached a Decision in Munir’s case, holding that Saudi Arabia has failed to fulfil its treaty obligations under Articles 4, 13(1), 15, 16, and 25 of the Convention. In its conclusion, the CRPD notes that Saudi Arabia is under an obligation to investigate Munir’s torture and to compensate him for the loss of hearing in his right ear. The Committee also stated that Saudi Arabia is obligated to “review his conviction with the guarantees enshrined in the Convention, including through the exclusion of the evidence obtained under torture; the permanent suspension of solitary confinement; the full access to his representatives; the provision of adapted procedural accommodations to ensure that the author can effectively take part to the procedure; and the access to health services needed by the author.” The Committee also noted Saudi Arabia’s obligations to prevent similar acts in the future, by prohibiting torture in the justice system, investigating allegations of torture, ensuring medical access in detention, and consider abolition of the death penalty.
“The CRPD’s Decision is significant, because Munir’s case is emblematic of broader concerns we have long raised, in particular of torture, ill treatment, and unfair trials that Saudi Arabia has long perpetrated against dissidents ,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “While Munir Al Adam is just one of many individuals who have been convicted on the basis of tortured confessions and unfair trials at the Specialized Criminal Court, the Committee’s Decision calls attention to Saudi Arabia’s disdain and non-compliance with international human rights standards and treaty body standards more broadly. Saudi Arabia must take concrete steps to fulfill its obligations in order to prevent these violations from occurring again to others in detention.”
“ESOHR welcomes the Decision from the Committee, which confirms what we have known about Saudi Arabia for years – that they torture individuals and violate human rights obligations to convict and execute individuals for their political beliefs,” said Ali Adubisi, Executive Director of ESOHR. “Munir’s case is an example of the practices of Saudi Arabia against persons with disabilities in their prisons, with the Saudi authorities ignoring all their commitments. Munir still may face execution despite the Committee’s Decision.””
ADHRB and ESOHR welcome the Decision of the Committee, and urge the Saudi government to heed the recommendations of the CPRD, particularly by halting Munir Al Adam’s pending execution, annulling his conviction, investigating allegations of torture, and ensuring access to medical care for all individuals in detention facilities.
This post was edited on 26 October 2018.