UN Human Rights Council must hold Saudi Arabia accountable for enforced disappearances

September 20, 2023

With Right Livelihood and ALQST for Human Rights, we delivered a joint oral statement during the 54th session of the Human Rights Council to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. In this statement, we raised the case of Saudi human rights defender Mohammed al-Qahtani, who has been forcibly disappeared since October 2022, and called on Saudi Arabia to end its widespread practice of enforced disappearance.

Human Rights Council - 18th Session © UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

54th session of the Human Rights Council

Item 3: interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Mr. President,

Right Livelihood, ALQST for Human Rights and MENA Rights Group thank the Working Group for their report.

We remain greatly alarmed by the widespread practice of enforced disappearance in Saudi Arabia, as part of the authorities’ extreme repression of peaceful dissent.

Last November, human rights defender Mohammed al-Qahtani completed his 10-year sentence on politically motivated charges. Since October 24, 2022, he has been forcibly disappeared. His family has been denied any contact with him, and authorities threaten them into silence. While the Saudi authorities claim he remains behind bars for additional crimes, they have failed to communicate his trial dates and prohibited him from seeking legal assistance. Nothing justifies incommunicado detention. Yet, his case is just one of many.

In 2020, the Working Group denounced in a general allegation the clear trend of both short and long-term enforced disappearances in Saudi Arabia, made possible by a lack of criminalisation of the practice, and often coupled with torture. To this date, the authorities have failed to respond. 

While Saudi Arabia continues its elimination of civic space unabated, we deplore that a number of States are increasingly rehabilitating its leaders.  This only legitimises the authorities’ tactics of repression. Hence, we reiterate our calls on the Council to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its human rights abuses and urge its authorities to : (1) Cease its persecution of peaceful activists, including through the use of enforced disappearances, (2) Immediately provide information on the fate and whereabouts of those forcibly disappeared and (3) Unconditionally release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained.

Thank you

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