Saudi Arabia: Torture of human rights defenders addressed by UN Committee Against Torture


In a joint submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), ALQST for Human Rights, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and MENA Rights Group reiterate recommendations to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the torture of women human rights defenders.

This joint report, submitted in March 2019, addresses the recommendation mentioned in para. 20 of the Committee’s concluding observations (CAT/C/SAU/CO/2) on reprisals against and harassment, intimidation and arrest of human rights defenders and journalists. 

The joint report is submitted pursuant to the Committee’s request for further clarification adopted by the Committee on 11 December 2018 and available at: pdf

The joint submission says, “Torture is practiced systematically in Saudi Arabia to extract confessions during interrogations and through-out detention. While detainees have reported informing courts of the torture they have endured, investigations are virtually never conducted into their allegations and coerced confessions are routinely admitted as evidence against them. Techniques of torture and ill treatment typically used include, beatings, flogging, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, secret detention and threats of raping or killing victims’ relatives.”

In particular, the joint submission provides the following update to CAT: “Since November 2018, reports have emerged that women human rights defenders are being systematically subjected to torture in Saudi Arabia. This is a particularly worrying development given that the torture of women detainees was previously unheard of in the state.” 

On 4 June 2019, the CAT wrote to Saudi Arabia requesting information on measures taken to investigate the cases provided in the joint submission, noting that the state had failed to reply in time for the CAT’s 66thsession in April and May 2019 in Geneva.


Since the joint submission was made to CAT, two of the women mentioned have been released but the rest of the women and men listed remain in prison.Eman Al-Nafjan and Aziza Al-Yousefwho were arrested in May 2018, were temporarily freed on 28 March 2019 after their cases were referred to court. Their court cases, among seven other defendants, has been indefinitely delayed or cancelled.

The joint CAT submission by ALQST, GCHR, ISHR and MENA Rights Group is available for download here in English only.