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After Sherida’s death: When would the international community take action to save the lives of detainees ins Saudi Arabia?

After weeks of concealing the news of his infection with the Coronavirus, the Saudi authorities finally announced the death of the Saudi prisoner of conscience, “Zuhair Ali Sherida”, due to medical negligence in Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh.

According to human rights sources, Sheraida died after suffering from the Coronavirus, which he contracted as he was deliberately placed in the Corona patients’ ward, despite being in good health and not showing any symptoms.

Zuhair Sherida has been detained since 2017 due to critical tweets of some of the regime’s policies. His arrest came in a wide campaign against dissidents. He died on Saturday, May 08, after he was returned to the ward (8a) after being infected with the Coronavirus which he contracted from the ward he was transferred to, thus the disease was transmitted to dozens of inmates (8A), including Mohamed Al-Qahtani, a member of the Hassem Association, and Issa Al-Nukhaifi.

The death of Sherida is conclusive evidence of the gross neglect in Saudi detention facilities.

Together for Justice have always called for urgent investigations into the widespread violations inside Saudi detention centers, and the formation of an impartial international committee to inspect the conditions of prisoners and ensure that they obtain all their rights guaranteed in the conventions and treaties that Saudi Arabia is a party to, whether nationally or internationally.

His transfer to the ward of people infected with Coronavirus was not the only violation that Zuhair was subjected to, in addition to his arbitrary arrest in the first place.

Sherida was deprived more than once of receiving family visits or contacting them, the last of which was in February. The authorities also refused to provide the family with any news of him, even about his illness, which was not disclosed until his family received his body the day after his death.

It is worth noting that in March 2021, Zuhair and more than 30 prisoners of conscience in Al-Ha’ir Prison went on a hunger strike to protest the harassment they are subjected to inside their detention facility, such as detention in patients’ wards, whether with contagious diseases or mental and psychological diseases, and they were also denied access to books and newspapers, in addition to preventing family contact.

The Corona pandemic has shed light on the poor conditions of detention in the Saudi prisons, where wards are overcrowding with detainees, in a polluted environment which helps the spread of epidemics and diseases.

Despite all this, the authorities have clearly failed to take any measures to improve these conditions and maintain the safety and lives of detainees, such as conditional release who do not pose a threat to public security including prisoners for conscience, for example, to ease overcrowding.

We demand the opening of an urgent investigation into the circumstances of Sherida’s death and his transfer to the ward of those infected with Coronavirus despite not being ill.

We also demand the opening of independent investigations into all violations that lead to deaths in the Saudi prisons, most of which are due to the significant deterioration of health resulting from the widespread medical negligence in prisons.

Finally, we renew our call to the relevant UN bodies, and the relevant international bodies, to form an independent committee to inspect Saudi detention facilities and to ensure that all Standard Minimum Standards for the treatment of prisoners are applied to all prisoners, regardless of their affiliation.

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