The Saudi Human Rights Commission ignores complaints from exiled opponents

A number of exiled Saudi activists conveyed their dissatisfaction with the Saudi Human Rights Commission’s response to a letter they wrote to it several months ago regarding the “arbitrary” travel ban that was placed on many of their family members inside the Kingdom over their human rights advocacy.

The letter in question was sent in August 2023 by the following Saudi activists: Lina Al-Hathloul, Abdullah Salman Al-Awda, Fawzia Nasser Khalaf Al-Huzaimi Al-Otaibi, Nasser Awad Al-Qarni, and Khaled Saad Al-Jabri, who are “forcibly” living abroad for fear of Saudi security persecution over their parents’ activism.

“We are writing to bring to your attention a grave matter that is affecting the fundamental human rights of our relatives and loved ones. We seek your intervention and assistance in addressing a deeply concerning issue that has been plaguing our lives and those of our dear ones,” the letter reads.

The activists referred to international and local covenants and conventions that guarantee everyone freedom of movement and choice of residence, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state and everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. (Article 13).

The Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia has ratified, also states more clearly that “citizens shall not be arbitrarily or illegally deprived from leaving any Arab country, including their own, or their residency restricted to a particular place, or forced to live in any area of their country.” (Article 21).

Article 12 of the ICCPR states: Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.

The letter further emphasized that this right is supported by Saudi legislation, since Article 6, second paragraph, travel document system states that travel cannot be banned unless authorized by a court order or a directive from the Minister of Interior or the Head of State Security for particular security-related reasons and for a predetermined amount of time. These measures are typically done in cases involving financial crimes, custody disputes, or criminal investigations. According to the legislation, people who are prohibited from traveling must be made aware of the ruling or decision pertaining to their travel ban no later than one week from the date of issuance.

“As a reminder, our relatives have been subjected to a travel ban without any legal justification or formal decision. They find out about the restriction only when at the border, whether (car or plane). Our relatives have not committed any wrong, and their criminal records report certifies that the ban is arbitrary,” the letter added.

“Our relatives have been left without recourse, unable to pursue their dreams, visit their families, or even access necessary medical treatment abroad. This situation has had a profound impact on their mental and emotional well-being, as well as on the unity of our families.”

Up until now, the Saudi Human Rights Commission has failed to reply to this letter or any other letters or appeals sent to it by activists and opponents abroad. It is obviously politicized and serves as a front to protect the Saudi regime, enhance its image through deceit and fabrication, and assist in covering up crimes against the rights of Saudi citizens. 

We emphasize that everyone has the right to travel freely both inside and outside of their country. We also urge the relevant UN and HRC bodies to take immediate action and exert pressure on the Saudi government to lift the travel ban on dissidents, activists, and their families, allowing them to travel freely and return to their homes without fear or delay.

In this regard, we call on the free people all over the world to support the victims of this arbitrary policy by the Saudi regime using  the hashtag “#EndIllegalTravelBans” launched by human rights organisations. We further urge everyone to unite in order to generate global public opinion that will force the Saudi government to retract and revoke these rulings as well as all travel restrictions placed on entering and leaving the Kingdom.

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