Patterns of Torture in Saudi Arabia

04.12.21

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A Report by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

December 2021

Executive Summary

This report provides an overview of the specific ways and means by which torture is perpetrated in Saudi Arabia, with a particular focus on the period since Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince of Saudi Arabia in June 2017. The intervening years have heralded a new era of gross human rights violations against human rights defenders, bloggers, online activists and other dissenting voices.

One clear indicator of the deteriorating situation for Saudi human rights defenders is the brutal crackdown on women human rights defenders, who have been increasingly subjected to detention, torture and judicial harassment in retaliation against their peaceful activities calling for women to be allowed to drive and for an end to the archaic male guardianship system. A recent report by ALQST for Human Rights and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) stated that “the torture of women detainees was previously unheard of in Saudi Arabia.”[1]

In particular, the use of torture as a means of extracting confessions, which are frequently used as admissible evidence in grossly unfair trials, and of punishing detainees, has become an intrinsic part of the Saudi justice system. The report will therefore examine the use of torture against human rights defenders, activists and dissenting voices from the time of arrest to detention and trial.

The report will also identify and critique the systems that facilitate the use of torture and perpetuate a culture of impunity. By relying on key case studies, the report will demonstrate the inaccessibility of redress and the lack of accountability faced by torture survivors who attempt to file official complaints against perpetrators.

The report considers the potential of legal avenues such as universal jurisdiction in tackling the culture of impunity that sustains and supports perpetrators of torture in Saudi Arabia. GCHR will highlight pioneering cases that have been filed using universal jurisdiction in recent months. It is hoped that this will send a clear signal to the authorities that they are not above the law and will face justice for their actions.

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[1] “Torture in Saudi Arabia – Impunity Reigns”, ALQST for Human Rights and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, February 2021, p.9, available at https://www.alqst.org/en/post/Torture-in-Saudi-Arabia-Impunity-Reigns (accessed 04 September 2021).

 

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