Rights groups file complaint to UN over Saudi prince’s ‘arbitrary’ detention


The Geneva-based Mena Rights Group and the London-based ALQST lodged a complaint to the United Nations over the “arbitrary” detention of a Saudi prince and are calling for his release.

In January 2018, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, 37, was swept up along with his father in a royal crackdown, leaving his supporters asking why the minor royal who posed no apparent challenge to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was targeted.

The two rights group filed a joint complaint on Tuesday (Aug. 25) with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva over his incarceration.

“Prince Salman and his father have been held for over 2.5 years without any charges,” Ms. Ines Osman, director of Mena Rights Group, told AFP. “Their detention has no legal basis.”

The complaint follows this month’s bombshell US lawsuit by a former senior Saudi intelligence official, Saad Aljabri, who alleges Prince Mohammed tried to have him killed.

The developments have spotlighted royal power plays in the oil-rich kingdom.

Prince Salman, educated at Paris’s Sorbonne University, was held for around a year in the high-security Al-Hai’r prison near Riyadh and later in a guarded villa in the capital, sources close to him said.

The prince was moved to a secret detention site in March but was mysteriously returned to the villa two months later, the sources said, after a US$2 million US lobbying effort and petitions from European lawmakers calling for his release.

After hearing the complaint, a draft of which was seen by AFP, the UN working group is expected to declare an “opinion” on the case in the coming months.

The Saudi government is not legally obligated to respond.

But the case seeks to cast a fresh international spotlight on the plight of the prince – one of many royal family members incarcerated since the meteoric rise of Prince Mohammed.

Most perplexing, the sources say, is that the prince and his father have never once been interrogated since their detention.

“This adds to the arbitrariness of their detention,” Ms Osman said.

ALQST, founded by activist and former Royal Saudi Air Force officer Yahya Assiri, said the prince was “badly beaten” after being summoned to a royal gathering.

“Some of those present were accused of taking part in meetings and pacts aiming to depose… (the) crown prince, and sharing these ideas with people abroad hoping they would help them,” ALQST said.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Prince Salman’s father, was detained the next day in an official raid on his home after he “phoned some people in Europe”, including a Paris-based lawyer, to help his son, ALQST said.

Surveillance cameras in the home were broken and a number of devices seized as the prince was accused of “communication with foreign entities”, the activist group added.

Associates of Prince Salman, who is known for his philanthropic activities, say “nothing political” was discussed at the meeting.

The EU has also raised the issue with the Saudi foreign ministry and the kingdom’s Human Rights Commission on “several occasions” without any success, according to internal correspondence dated late March. (Source: The Straits Times)