Joint follow up report on Saudi Arabia to the UN Committee against Torture



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


      I.        About the authors 

This report has been jointly authored by the following organisations:

  • ALQST for Human Rights - Yahya Assiri
  • Gulf Centre for Human Rights - Weaam Youssef & Kristina Stockwood
  • International Service for Human Rights - Vincent Ploton & Salma El Hosseiny
  • MENA Rights group - Julia Legner

    II.        The practice of torture in Saudi Arabia 

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 this regard, we also wish to point out that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has noted: 

that it has heard numerous complaints about prolonged incommunicado detention, as well as torture, for months if not years, of Saudi citizens and foreign nationals by the Directorate of General Investigation [...] which has been nearly ubiquitous in the cases referred to the Working Group from Saudi Arabia for over two decades, since the first appearance in a decision by the Working Group in its eighth session, in 1993.

Furthermore, in its Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Saudi Arabia, the Committee against Torture raised its deep concern “at the numerous reports brought to its attention that torture and other ill-treatment are commonly practised in prisons and detention centres in the State party, in particular in branches of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of the Interior and in Al-Mabahith detention centres”. Moreover, domestic Saudi law is not in-line with international standards, as it does not define the crime of torture as required by the Convention against Torture, nor does it contain provisions which ensure the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.

In a report published following his country visit to Saudi Arabia in 2017, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism concluded with regards to the practice of torture that: “The failure of Saudi Arabia to provide minimum procedural safeguards during detention and interrogation, and its judicial practice of admitting coerced confessions into evidence, strongly suggests that the practice is officially endorsed.”

Since November 2018, reports have emerged that women human rights defenders (WHRDs) 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. 

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