Torture, a permissible crime in Saudi Arabia,...
Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, torture persist in all regions of the world. According to news and statistics, torture and ill treatment is still systemically carried out in some countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates. In this report we take a look at recent 2020 news on torture in these countries.
In September 1997, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia certified the Convention Against Torture, which requires its members to take measures to prevent torture. In contrast with the anti-torture measures it is required to take under the Convention Against Torture and its own domestic laws and regulations, Saudi Arabia has adopted post-arrest procedures that help create an environment that facilitates the occurrence of torture and impunity for its perpetrators, rather than taking fundamental measures to prevent this from happening. European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) has reviewed 110 cases of arbitrary detention in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the study shows that the vast majority of the cases studied involved the following measures:
1- Solitary confinement
While the legal time limit for solitary confinement and the requirements for its application vary from country to country, this measure is widely and arbitrarily implemented in Saudi prisons. Many of the subjects in the case studies remained in solitary confinement for periods exceeding six months, some of these approaching or exceeding a year. The study finds that investigators use solitary confinement to force the victim to sign statements written by the investigators themselves, by subjecting him to multiple categories of physical and psychological torture.
2- Denial of access to an attorney
The relevant security entities do not allow detainees legal representation at all during the investigation period, only granting them this right either during or after the first trial hearing. This makes subsequent access to a lawyer ineffective or a formality because the victim was forced to certify his statements before his trial even began.
3- Lack of separation between the detention entity and the investigation entity
Separating the entities responsible for detention and investigation helps reduce the possibility of the occurrence of torture crimes. The opposite occurs if one entity is responsible for both detention and investigation. However, in reality, detainees in political cases are often interrogated in Mabahith prison facilities, suggesting that investigators are from the Mabahith apparatus.
4- Forcing victims to certify their statements prior to trial
Saudi Arabia implements a method designed to compel the detainee to agree with statements forced upon him. Under this method, before the beginning of trial, the detainee is sent before a judge known as the “certifying judge,” whose sole duty is to take the detainee’s certification of his statements and then return him to prison. If the detainee refuses to sign, he is sent back to interrogation, which is de facto torture. In order to escape the horrors of torture he is again facing, the detainee must sign, and he is given no opportunity before the certifying judge to debate, object, or avail himself of a lawyer.
In the majority of cases studied by ESOHR, the subjects were not referred for trial until after they were forced to certify their statements with the certifying judge. In many cases, the victims said that investigators threatened them with severe torture if they did not certify their statements.
The Saudi security apparatus practices several types of torture and other forms of inhuman treatment degrading human dignity, including sleep deprivation for days in a row, Severe beating, Forcing the victim to stand for long hours with raised hands, sometimes while bound, Placing the victim in a freezing room without clothing or pouring cold water on him, Electric shock, Nail extraction, Complete stripping of the victim during investigation, Tying the victim to a chair during investigation to further humiliate him, Shackling the victim’s legs for months, Blindfolding during questioning, Burning the victim with cigarette butts, Threat of death, Beating until unconscious and etc.
Some of the UN Special Rapporteurs have expressed grave concern about the mistreatment of political prisoners in Bahrain. In a letter, the experts documented a range of abuses conducted by prison staff, including medical negligence, religious discrimination and harassment.
Also a lot of sentences are made only based on confessions obtained through torture. In a joint statement, Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) launched an urgent call to halt the execution of two men who were sentenced to death based on their confessions. ACAT and ADHRB revealed that they were tortured and forced to confess carrying out terror acts. In a telephone in October last year, one of them told a British rights group that during this time he was subjected to a range of abuses including beatings, electric shocks, sexual assault, and attempted rape. The investigators threatened to murder his children and rape his wife, who was beaten and threatened at gunpoint by security officers at their home.
Recently, Bahraini activists and social media users have launched a campaign on the platform to demand an immediate end to the torture of political dissidents at prisons and detention centers across the kingdom. The activists launched the Arabic hashtag ‘Stop Torture in Bahrain’ on Twitter. Human rights organisations have frequently condemned Bahrain, which is, according to the US NGO Freedom House, “one of the Middle East’s most repressive states,” for covering up torture, unlawful executions, and human rights abuses in prisons.
United Arab Emirates
In the UAE torture is consistently employed in detention centers in order to extract confessions of guilt or testimonies against other detainees, bereft of any punishment of the perpetrators. These practices target human rights defenders, peaceful opponents of the regime as well as national and foreign citizens. The UAE entered a joint coalition with Saudi Arabia and Yemen that allowed them to create a network of secret prisons in UAE controlled areas. These prisons were run by Emirati forces to facilitate and spread systematic torture.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) must be held accountable for the torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders and activists in prisons and secret detention centers, said four human rights groups. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) have released their submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), which was postponed this year due to the COVID-19 crisis until April 2021 at the CAT’s 71st session. “Despite the State ratifying the Convention in 2012, torture continues to be widespread in the UAE criminal justice system, from arrest and interrogation to detention.” says Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. According to the report, “Under the pretext of national security, the UAE authorities have subjected human rights defenders and activists to arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, prolonged isolation, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and harsh prison sentences, solely for their peaceful human rights activities, including engaging with UN mechanisms.”