The ongoing detention of two Palestinian men – and father and son – in Saudi Arabia has been condemned by a United Nations working group, which called it part of a “systemic problem with arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia, which amounts to a serious violation of international law”.
A determination by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the detention of Palestinian nationals Dr. Mohammed Al Khoudary, 83, and Dr. Hani Al Khoudary, 50, who have been held since April 2019, found their imprisonment to be “arbitrary” and that their “fundamental human rights were violated”.
The working group called for the two men to be released immediately and compensated for their illegal detention.
The case was discussed at the group’s 91st session, from September 6 to 10, 2021.
Among other violations of international law, the working group found that Saudi authorities detained the men based on their national identity and denied them the right to a fair trial.
In the context of other such violations, the group said the cases illustrate a “systemic problem with arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia, which amounts to a serious violation of international law”. It added that “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity”.
Dr. Mohammed Al Khoudary and Dr. Hani Al Khoudary were arrested on April 4, 2019, along with more than 60 other Palestinians living and working in Saudi Arabia at around the same time. All were perceived to have links to Hamas, and among them were doctors, engineers, academics, businessmen and students.
Many of those arrested have reported severe human rights violations, including physical and mental torture by prison officers and interrogators.
Dr. Mohammed and Dr. Hani Al Khoudary were not told the legal reason for their arrest or charges against them for the first 11 months of their detention, only being given such information on the first day of their trial. Before the trial, they suffered coercive interrogation, were held in solitary confinement and refused access to legal representatives and their family. They were only briefly allowed access to a lawyer two months after their trial began.
The Al Khoudarys were also denied adequate health care, with the working group noting that “the authorities knew [Dr. Mohammed Al Khoudary] was a cancer patient at the time of his arrest” and “he has experienced a severe deterioration in health” due to being denied “access to the required specialist medical care”.
As a result, the group found their rights had been violated and referred their case to the “Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” and the “Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons”.
In a statement, the International Counsel for the Al Khoudarys said: “The decision of the UN Working Group powerfully confirms the abhorrent treatment and violations the Al Khoudarys have suffered for over two and a half years in detention in Saudi Arabia while raising the widespread scale at which Saudi Arabia has acted with impunity in systematically violating the right to liberty in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner which may rise to the level of crimes against humanity.
“With this strong decision there must be unqualified and immediate compliance by Saudi Arabia, and the UN and international community should not allow Saudi Arabia to further violate international law and disregard the rule of law by ignoring the Working Group’s instructions that the immediate release of the Al Khoudarys and reparations are the appropriate remedy.”