UN Special Procedures Publish Urgent Appeal to Saudi Arabia on Executions and Wave of Arrests of Human Rights Defenders, Writers, and Intellectuals

On 15 July 2019, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment sent an Urgent Appeal to the Government of Saudi Arabia concerning the   of 37 individuals on 23 April 2019, as well as the wave of arrests of human rights defenders, writers, and intellectuals.

The Urgent Appeal highlighted the cases of the individuals executed, including Munir al-Adam. Prior notice was not given to their families before the executions took place and a majority of these individuals had been reportedly subjected to torture and solitary confinement, and their confessions were obtained under duress. Additionally, they were denied access to medical care, legal representation, and information on the charges against them.

Additionally, the Urgent Appeal raised the cases of 15 individuals who were arrested without warrants between 4 and 9 April 2019. The charges against these individuals are unknown, and at the time of the Urgent Appeal were being held incommunicado with no access to legal representation. They had also not been permitted to receive visits from their families. All of the individuals had written articles, blogs, or communications through social media on feminism, human rights defenders, democracy, and the economic situation in Saudi Arabia.

The UN Special Procedures expressed “serious concern” as to the allegations against the Saudi Arabian government, specifically the executions, reported acts of torture, denial of medical care, and denial of legal representation. They expressed particular concern that Mr. Al-Adam’s case was also before the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Working Group had a pending communication to the Saudi Arabian government calling for the government to ensure Mr. Al-Adam’s physical and mental integrity. Nevertheless, he was executed. The Urgent Appeal also expressed concern at the arrest and detention of human rights defenders, as it constitutes a violation of the right to life, liberty, and security, as well as the rights to be free of arbitrary detention, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to fair proceedings as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, the Special Procedures offices expressed concern at the reports of torture and ill treatment prohibited by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to which Saudi Arabia is a party. The Urgent Appeal additionally addressed the violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, violated by Saudi Arabia’s execution of Mr. Al-Adam.

As mandated by the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteurs requested that the government of Saudi Arabia provide any information on the allegations, provide information on the executions of the 37 individuals including information as to why Mr. Al-Adam was executed while there was communication pending with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and any information as to why the 15 individuals have been denied access to their families and legal representation.

The Government of Saudi Arabia has responded, and the response is awaiting translation.