UN Special Procedures Publish Urgent Appeal to Saudi Arabia on the Human Rights Violations against Ugandan national Ms. Sylvia Nandawula

On 13 September 2019, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences published an Urgent Appeal to the Government of Saudi Arabia, citing concern for the human rights abuses faced by Ms. Sylvia Nandawula.  

Ms. Nandawula, a Ugandan national, was allegedly employed by a recruitment agency in Uganda called Verdant Pastures Agency (U) Limited and sent to work as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia.  On 6 January 2019, Ms. Nandawula traveled to Saudi Arabia and started working as a housemaid in Almahrajan City, Tabuk. 

The Urgent Appeal alleges that soon after Ms. Nandawula began working, she was mistreated, beaten, and subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Special Rapporteurs received photos showing wounds and scars on her body. Additionally, Ms. Nandawula reported that she was subjected to forced labor and was denied food and access to medical treatment.  

During the week of 9 September 2019, Ms. Nandawula’s recruitment agency reported that they started processing papers to return her to Uganda; however, family members have since lost contact with Ms. Nandawula. Ms. Nandawula is allegedly a victim of trafficking in persons and has previously expressed her desire to be repatriated back to Uganda and reunited with her family. 

The Special Rapporteurs cited specific concerns regarding Ms. Nandawula’s ill-treatment by her employer and the allegation that she was trafficked from Uganda. They called on the Saudi government to uphold its international human rights obligations as laid out in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. Finally, the Special Rapporteurs appealed to the Saudi government to locate Ms. Nandawula, to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses against her, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.