Qatar must not return ex-diplomat to Saudi Arabia amid torture fears

A former Saudi Arabian diplomat is at grave risk of being detained and tortured or otherwise ill-treated if Qatari authorities follow through with plans to return him forcibly to Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said. In the past week Qatari police have twice summoned Mishal bin Zaar Hamad al-Mutiry – a 50-year-old who formerly worked at the Saudi Arabian embassy in the Netherlands and who has been in Qatar since August 2011 after he fled Saudi Arabia. On Sunday, police reportedly asked al-Mutiry why he did not comply with a 2 January order from Qatar’s Ministry of Interior to leave the country within 48 hours or face being forcibly returned to his native Saudi Arabia. The former diplomat has alleged that he was previously imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia after he accused the country’s embassy in the Netherlands of being involved in funding terrorism. He has told Amnesty International he was previously forced to return to his country in 2006 after being seized by individuals he believed to be armed Saudi agents in The Hague.“The Qatari authorities must immediately halt plans to forcibly return Mishal bin Zaar Hamad al-Mutiry to Saudi Arabia, where he is at grave risk of arbitrary detention and torture once more,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International. “He must be afforded an opportunity to seek asylum without delay, to ensure he can seek safety.”In 2003 al-Mutiry had complained to his government that the Saudi Arabian embassy in the Dutch city of The Hague – where he worked at the time – was allegedly financing terrorism. Instead of investigating the claims he was dismissed from his job at the embassy and he subsequently went public with his accusations. In September 2004 the Netherlands granted him political asylum. Al-Mutiry told Amnesty International that in 2006 men in civilian clothes who he believes were Saudi Arabian agents approached him in the Netherlands and took him at gunpoint to the Belgian capital Brussels. One of his sons was taken away in another car. Once in Brussels, the armed men reportedly told the ex-diplomat he had to fly to Saudi Arabia. “I had no option but to go, as they had my son,” al-Mutiry said. He alleges he was detained upon his arrival in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, where he was held for six months in the General Directorate of Investigations prison. He was allegedly held incommunicado for the first week and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including beatings and being made to stand for hours on end. Al-Mutiry was released after six months without charge and forbidden to leave Saudi Arabia. On 11 August 2011, he fled to neighbouring Qatar, where he has remained ever since.Just over a year later, in September 2012 the Qatari authorities arrested him, apparently with the intention of returning him to Saudi Arabia. But he was released around a week later following NGO pressure. In Saudi Arabia, criticism of the state is generally not tolerated. There is a high price for criticizing government figures, policies or practices, with dissenters often held incommunicado without charge – sometimes in solitary confinement – and being denied access to lawyers or the courts to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. Torture or other ill-treatment is frequently used to extract “confessions” from detainees. Qatar has ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which prohibits, without exception, states from expelling or extraditing any person to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”If the Qatari authorities forcibly return al-Mutiry they will be violating their obligations under international law by placing him at grave risk of torture and arbitrary detention by Saudi Arabian authorities who seek to punish him for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Hadj Sahraoui.