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SAM calls on Yemenis participating in Riyadh talks to call on Saudi Arabia to respect the rights of Yemenis residing in the Kingdom and to release all detainees in Saudi prisons


Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said that the Yemeni-Yemeni talks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, constitute a suitable opportunity to call on Saudi Arabia to stop human rights violations against hundreds of Yemenis residing on its territory, as hundreds of Yemenis residing in Saudi Arabia are subjected to grave violations, some of which amount to crimes against humanity such as torture and enforced disappearance and they constitute a grave and clear violation of a set of fundamental rights guaranteed by international law. The organization calls on the Saudi authorities to stop these violations and release detainees, especially prisoners of conscience and social media activists.

"SAM" organization said that the Yemenis invited by the Gulf Cooperation Council to attend the talks at the end of this month are facing a challenge and a moral test towards the violations that affect Yemenis, especially journalists, in order to demand the cessation of these violations as the demand of the warring parties to stop human rights violations is not correct while those who sponsor the so-called Riyadh Talks practice continuously grave human rights violations against Yemenis.

The organization emphasized that there is another opportunity to demand that Yemenis be treated exceptionally as Ukrainian residents since the humanitarian situation in Yemen is not much different from the situation in Ukraine. On the contrary, it is even worse due to the deteriorating economic conditions in the country and the poverty barrier of 80% of the country's total population, according to United Nations’ statistics.

The organization also stated in a statement issued by it today, Monday, that it had documented grave violations against dozens of Yemeni residents during the period 2014-2022, which it monitored in the report “Yemenis in Saudi Prisons” issued on April 8, 2021, in addition to many human rights reports and statements, stressing that some of them amount to war crimes, and indicating the need to form international investigation committees into these practices and violations.

"SAM" referred to a series of violations committed by the Saudi authorities against Yemenis, including the arrest of the journalist "Marwan Al-Muraisy", who remained missing for more than a year before his whereabouts were revealed as it was reported that he is in the headquarters of the Saudi intelligence and is still detained to this day because of his work as a journalist.

On February 14, 2022, the Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia sentenced the Yemeni citizen and resident on the territory of the Kingdom, "Mohammed Fadhael" to seven years in prison in the case of posting on social media. He was arrested on June 28, 2020, with other Yemenis from their homes. Also, their phones and personal devices had been confiscated and they had been forcibly disappeared before they were revealed to be in the General Intelligence Prison in Jeddah.

Human Rights Watch said today that a Saudi court sentenced “Abu Lahoum”, 38 years old, to 15 years in prison for apostasy on October 21, 2021, based on comments on two anonymous Twitter accounts.

On July 25, 2019, “SAM” documented the death of the citizen “Ibrahim Muhammad Mahyoub Saeed Al Shamsani,” a sergeant in the Yemeni Coast Guard forces, from Taiz Governorate, Mashra’a Wa Hdan District, who died in a prison belonging to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Jazan region after being subjected to apparently severe torture, in violation of the provisions of international humanitarian law, stressing that the incident of death is a crime that may amount to the elements of war crimes if this information is proven.

On June 10, 2019, a group masked gunmen raided the home of Younis Saif Saleh Saeed Al Radfani, 28, and transferred him to the Saudi forces prison at Al Ghayda Airport, where he remained in prison for three days. He said that he was exposed to torture for two consecutive days and saw horrific scenes of torture, after which they released him and in a cold way, they told him: "We made a mistake... we didn't mean you... Go back to your home." Younis described what happened as mockery and contempt.

On July 2, 2019, a female citizen was shot during a security force raid on her house in Al-Nour neighborhood in Al-Ghaydah city. She was transferred after her injury to Al-Ghaydah Hospital, where the security force raided the house without a court order, and arrested two people who were later released and said that they had been tortured in a secret Saudi prison.

On July 2, 2019, "Nasser Mahmoud Mabrouk" and "Saleh Muhammad Hassan", who are from Abyan governorate, said that their house in the city of al-Ghaydah was subjected to a sudden attack by members of the "military police" of the governorate and the Saudi forces, and they were taken to a secret prison. They said they were tortured, beaten and humiliated for three days, and their personal belongings, clothes and money were stolen.

On September 9, 2019, the pharmacist, Suleiman Al-Ameri, was kidnapped by a military force affiliated with the Governor of Al-Mahra. Police forces raided his shop, handcuffed him and blindfolded him before transferring him to a secret prison. He said that in prison he was tortured with electrocutions to the point of losing consciousness. Then thanks to a tribal mediation, they handed him over to the Criminal Investigation Department, which later released him.

In 2019, Colonel Abdul-Rab al-Asbahi was summoned by Major General Muhammad al-Bahili, commander of the Fifth Brigade, Border Guard, where he was arrested and disappeared by Saudi forces on the orders of Saad Al Jaber - brother of the Saudi ambassador - in Yemen. According to the testimonies obtained by "SAM", "Al-Asbahi" was arrested from the front lines for reasons believed to be related to a snitch from one of the senior officers, whom Al-Asbahi objected to his appointment. His fate remains unknown since he was abducted by the Saudi forces. Also, his family was not allowed to visit him, contact him, or even know his whereabouts. There are conflicting reports about the place of his arrest in either Najran prison or the general prison in Aseer.

The human rights organization pointed out that "Radhi Abdu Al-Wahidi", who has been detained for four years, suffers from a deteriorating health condition as one of his family members told the "SAM" team that they "fear for his life in light of his continued detention without any legal justification." The organization stated that "Al-Wahidi", 37 years old, who worked as a teacher in the governorates of Shabwa, Al-Jawf and Marib, was arrested in 2015 by Houthi forces in the capital, Sana'a, where his detention continued until 2016 and then was released. After that, he moved to live in Marib, where he joined the army. Then "Al-Wahidi" was appointed in the Southern Border Brigades, and he continued to work for three months before losing contact with him suddenly as he was arrested from the Al-Wadia border crossing. His family was not informed until they received a text message from him through the Red Cross, where he informed his father that he was detained in a Saudi prison, "Joint Forces Prison - Sharurah District" without knowing the reasons or presenting any judicial order, and his family was also prevented from visiting him or communicating him .

On July 2020, the Saudi security forces arrested the Yemeni citizen “Ibrahim Ali Al-Masori,” 40 years old, from the Raymah governorate, from his residence in Taif. According to the testimonies of his relatives, Ibrahim was transferred after his disappearance by the criminal investigation services to Riyadh in preparation for his trial because he expressed his opinion on social media.

Tawfik Al-Hamidi, president of SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said: “Many Yemenis residing legally on the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or those escaping from the hell of war suffer great harassment at the hands of the Saudi security authorities or passport authorities on the pretext of violating the residency system, forcing many of them to leave Saudi Arabia and thus endangering their lives for fear of being deported to Yemen, which suffers from difficult security and humanitarian conditions.” He stressed that (those practices seriously harm Saudi Arabia's reputation among Yemenis around the world while watching the great solidarity shown by the European neighboring countries to the Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in their country due to the Russian military offensive taking into account that the humanitarian conditions in Yemen are the worst in the world).

The organization highlighted a set of testimonies it obtained about the harassment Yemenis are subjected to at the economic level in the Kingdom, which included deportation orders and shutdown of facilities, in addition to restrictions on licenses and permits allowing them to work, which closes in on them to the extent that it has become very difficult for those Yemenis to continue under such circumstances in the Kingdom. The following are some of those testimonies obtained by “SAM”:

Al-Nahari, one of the deportees from the Kingdom, tells SAM that he was deported 11 months ago from the Kingdom as he stated that he was based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the residency needed procedures for renewal and fees. However, he was unable to pay the amount, so he decided to travel from the border where he was arrested and taken to Al-Dabra prison. Al-Nahari says that he stayed in this prison belonging to the border sector for three months. He also confirmed, "We were exposed to the most severe types of torture. We were beaten to the point of death. We did not think that we would return to our families. We were slapped with hands on our faces and we were beaten with sticks on our bodies."

Al-Nahari added about the difficulty and deterioration of conditions in Saudi prisons, "I remember a friend of ours who was arrested for smuggling cows to Saudi Arabia, and he fell seriously ill. We were screaming that the man would die, but no one came. After a while someone came to us and said, "If he dies, tell us." Then they took him to hospital after he was about to die, and later they told us that he died.” Al-Nahari adds: “After that, they released us and we returned to Yemen where we fell into the hands of the Transitional Council, and we were badly insulted.”

As for “Al-Hazzi”, 40 years old, he told the team of SAM on December 2019 that “the salary for all employees of the Bin Muammar Transport Company in Jeddah has been suspended on the pretext that the company has many obligations and will pay salaries to the workers later. The situation continued until 2/2020, we worked without salaries. While we continued to work, I traveled Yemen as usual to drive international transport passengers from Saudi Arabia to Yemen and vice versa. Yet due to the Corona pandemic, the land port between Yemen and Saudi Arabia was closed, and work was stopped until the residency and exit and return visas expired. We contacted the company to complete the residency and visa procedures, but they refused that and also refused to send our delayed salaries and rights for years to this day.”

On the other hand, “Saif,” a pseudonym, said to SAM,: “I am a Yemeni citizen and have been working in Najran, Saudi Arabia for five years. I collected all my money in order to establish an investment, but then unexpectedly, I was surprised by the decision of preventing Yemenis from working and deporting them to their conflict-ridden country without any compensation for the property and money we lost in Saudi Arabia.”

In the same context, “Ali,” 40 years old, from Taiz Governorate, based in Jazan Industrial City, added, “I have been working as an automotive engineer in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 20 years, but I was shocked that they gave us a period of 90 days to leave the south or to get deported without reason. I pay an amount of eleven thousand Saudi riyals every year to get the residency renewed; however, I was deported and I do not know where to go after this decision, especially since I support three families.”

A group of Yemeni expats said in an appeal they sent to SAM, "We, Yemeni expats are threatened with deportation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in particular from the southern regions of the Kingdom. With the continuation of the war in our country, we have no place to return to, especially since our homes are in Houthi-controlled areas. We send you messages from a Yemeni number so that we do not face accountability and investigation because we are monitored.” The person who sent the appeal said, "I am a Yemeni expat who has been working for about 13 years in the south of the Kingdom, but now we are threatened with deportation and we do not know what the reasons or motives are, since I work with my sponsor and there is nothing against the law so that I get deported." He added, "The sponsor summoned me to the office and signed a paper to transfer the Yemeni workers working for him and replace them with other nationalities. Our destiny is to be deported after the Kingdom issued a decision to employ a specific percentage of Yemenis in institutions, amounting to only twenty percent.”

“Sawsan”, pseudonym, a Yemeni woman residing in Saudi Arabia said to SAM in her testimony, “I am Yemeni, originally from Hajjah, north of Yemen. I was born in Saudi Arabia and based in the city of Jazan in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 1989.  Due to the conditions we suffer because of the laws that were imposed on us since we live in the south of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have become threatened with final exit from the Kingdom. In addition, Yemen is in a state of war and unsafe, and because I am a girl and my father and mother are with me, we have no one to support us.” She added, "They summoned my father's sponsor and made him sign our exit. I also could not complete my education in the Kingdom because the state system does not allow foreigners to study unless they pay large sums of money.”

"SAM" indicated that the Yemeni children of Saudi women were included in the deportation decision, as "Mohammed", a pseudonym, said in his testimony to SAM Organization, "I am Yemeni who was born in Saudi Arabia and my mother is Saudi, but I was not exempted from the deportation decision in the south of Saudi Arabia. I am now 31 years old and have two children. Previously, I was a treasurer at Hyundai, but a week ago I was suspended from work. Now I am unemployed and my residency is about to expire. Now I am subject to deportation to Yemen.”

Another Yemeni said, "I am married to a Yemeni woman and a Saudi woman, and I have two children. Now I was told by the labor office to leave the south and that the residency expired; hence, I have to leave the kingdom. Now my Saudi wife will not come with me to Yemen, and I will be separated from my children."

In another testimony, a Yemeni citizen said, "I have worked in an institution with a work contract and under the institution's sponsorship since 2010, but I was shocked that my salary was withheld and I was denied residency renewal for nearly three years, knowing that in this case I and my family were deprived of health insurance.” He added, "I have filed a complaint in court, but so far I have not been redressed, nor has my salary been handed over. I suffer from difficult psychological and economic conditions because of depriving me of my salary and the failure to renew my residency. I feel like being detained in my own house."

An appeal was sent to “SAM’ from a group of workers in a cement company, who said, “We are a group of approximately 45 Yemenis. We received notices of the termination of our contracts because of our work in the southern regions. We do not know where we will go. We are facing a dilemma, especially since we support our families and we cannot return to Yemen in light of the ongoing conflict to this day.”

“SAM” stresses the serious repercussions on the economic conditions inside Yemen if this decision is implemented, especially since there are about 3 million Yemenis inside the kingdom who are the primary supporters of the Yemeni economy. In case workers are deported, it will cause an economic catastrophe with unknown consequences for the country, which has been suffering from severe shortages of most basic needs for years due to the ongoing conflict and the intervention of the Arab coalition countries.

In its statement, "SAM" indicated that the historical ties linking the border regions of Jazan and Najran with Yemen are great, noting the kinship ties between the tribes and the southern Saudi regions, in addition to the common customs and tradition of the residents.

For its part, "SAM" Organization stressed that all military and political parties, along with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are required to put aside any differences and pay attention to the suffering of Yemeni civilians that has been going on for more than ten years, noting that the economic, political and human rights situation in the country has hit bottom rock at the international level, and that all parties are obligated to come up with a solution that guarantees the protection of civilians and their rights.

The organization stressed the importance of discussing basic and sensitive topics in parallel at the Riyadh conference to be held at the end of this month, which must begin with an immediate ceasefire by the parties, and release detainees and abductees, in addition to providing basic services, providing urgent medical services to the injured, and starting a comprehensive reconstruction process for all Yemeni regions, as well as agreeing on the features of the transitional period, which must prioritize  protecting civilians and providing aid to those affected by them.

SAM concluded its statement by calling on the international community to intervene and provide full protection to civilians and to compel all parties to the conflict to end their repeated violations against civilians and to form a fact-finding committee on the repercussions of repeated violations by all parties.

SAM also called on the parties that will meet in Riyadh to work on establishing a clear road map to get out of the current crisis and to ensure the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Yemeni people in a democratic rule, in addition to providing them with fundamental rights guaranteed by international law.