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Saudi Arabia: UN experts say Uyghurs must not be extradited to China, urge proper risk assessment

GENEVA (1 April 2022) – UN human rights experts* today called on the Government of Saudi Arabia to uphold its obligations not to extradite two Chinese nationals belonging to the Uyghur minority, saying they risked serious violations of their human rights if they are returned to China.

Nuermaimaiti Ruze and Waili Aimidoula left their native Xinjiang Autonomous Region in 2016, amidst alleged risks of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment. The two men initially travelled to Turkey.

“We are alarmed by the arrest of two Uyghur men in Saudi Arabia, since November 2020, and their continuous detention without proper legal justification or implementation of fundamental safeguards, reportedly on the basis of an extradition request made by China,” the experts said.

“Detention should remain an exceptional measure subject to an individual assessment and regular judicial review, otherwise Saudi Arabia would be depriving the two men of their fundamental rights provided for under national and international law.” 

The prohibition of refoulement is absolute and non-derogable under international human rights and refugee law. States are obliged not to remove any individual from their territory when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person could be subjected to serious human rights violations in the State of destination, including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

“In view of the credible risk of grave violations, both for their membership of an ethnic and religious minority, Saudi Arabia is required to undertake an individual, impartial and independent assessment of risks, and provide prompt and transparent access to safeguards, including the ability to challenge the deportation decision,” the experts said.

They said that any derogation from the principle of non-refoulement would constitute a severe violation of international human rights and refugee law, regardless of the existence of a bilateral agreement on extradition, or diplomatic assurances.

The experts said they were also alarmed by information indicating that the two men were transferred to Riyadh for possible extradition, on 16 March 2022, and then brought back to the detention facility in Jeddah, where they have been continuously held incommunicado for at least 12 days.

“We request the authorities to immediately allow the two men to contact their families and ascertain their fate and whereabouts. We are further disturbed by reported recent acts of reprisal against members of the two men’s families, present in Saudi Arabia.”

Prolonged incommunicado detention can lead to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and can in itself constitute a form of such treatment, the experts said. States are thus required to respect the safeguards concerning the liberty, security and dignity of the person and to ensure that secret places of detention and interrogation are abolished.

The UN experts have expressed their concerns regarding the case to the Government of Saudi Arabia. 

ENDS

* The experts: Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Yasmine Ashraf (yasmine.ashraf@un.org/+41 22 917 2059)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Renato Rosario De Souza (renato.rosariodesouza@un.org) or Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 79 444 7578 / jeremy.laurence@un.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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