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Saudi Arabia: Detained Uyghur men at risk of torture must not be extradited to China

The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt plans to extradite two Uyghur men to China, where they will be at high risk of torture amid a brutal crackdown on Muslim minorities in the country’s Xinjiang region, Amnesty International said today.

Religious scholar Aimidoula Waili and his friend Nuermaimaiti Ruze, who have been detained in Saudi Arabia since November 2020 without explanation, were transferred to the capital Riyadh last week and are now believed to be at imminent risk of being forcibly repatriated to China.

“If sent to China, it is highly likely that these two men will be subjected to arbitrary detention and torture in Xinjiang’s network of repressive internment camps or prisons, where hundreds of thousands of other Uyghurs have faced grave human rights violations,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Under international law, the Saudi government has an obligation not to extradite Waili and Ruze to China due to their risk of being tortured. The Saudi authorities should halt all plans to deport the men and immediately release them from detention, unless they are to be charged with a recognizable criminal offence.”

Family members of the two Uyghur men told Amnesty International that Waili (also known as Hamdullah Veli) and Ruze (also known as Nur Muhammed Rozi) were transferred from Jeddah to Riyadh on March 16 – a move they believe signals their imminent extradition to China.

“We are extremely worried about our father, what would happen to him if sent to China. We need everyone to help immediately to stop this extradition,” Waili’s daughter Sumeyye told Amnesty International.

Waili, who was previously tortured in prison in Xinjiang, travelled to Saudi Arabia from Turkey in February 2020 to perform Umrah, a religious pilgrimage, with his friend Ruze.

In early November 2020, Waili heard from a friend who had spoken to a Saudi official that the government was planning to repatriate him to China. A few days later, he and Ruze were arrested.

The two Uyghur men have been detained since 20 November 2020 and were held in Jeddah Dhahban Central Prison before their transfer to Riyadh. The Saudi authorities have not given Waili and Ruze a reason for their arrest or informed them about any charges against them.

Background

Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment states that no state party shall extradite a person to another country where they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.  Saudi Arabia became party to the convention on 23 September 1997.

Aimidoula Waili was previously arrested in Xinjiang in August 2013 because one of the employees at his factory had allegedly incited an uprising. In early November 2020, Waili told Amnesty International he was tortured in prison: being electrocuted and forced to stand on ice while wearing nothing but slippers and underwear for up to three hours every day.

After his release in 2016, Waili went to Turkey where he was granted residency documents that allowed him to remain in the country indefinitely.  Earlier in February 2020, Waili and Ruze entered Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa to perform Umrah, a religious pilgrimage.

In June 2021, Amnesty International published a report revealing how hundreds of thousands of Muslim men and women in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are being subjected to arbitrary mass detention, indoctrination and torture.

Testimonies from former internment camp detainees detailed the extreme measures taken by Chinese authorities since 2017 to essentially root out Islamic religious beliefs and traditions, as well as the cultural practices and local languages of the region’s Muslim ethnic groups.

The Chinese government has gone to great lengths to cover up the human rights violations taking place in Xinjiang, and to prevent members of the Uyghur diaspora from speaking up about them. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases where Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim people in Xinjiang had been detained simply for living, travelling, or studying abroad or for communicating with people abroad. Many were detained simply for being “connected” with people who lived, travelled, studied, or communicated with people abroad.

Amnesty International has launched an international campaign calling for the closure of the internment camps, with more than 70 detailed casefiles on some of those thought to be currently detained. As of September 2021, more than 300,000 signatures had been collected from all over the world to demand the release all those currently detained in internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang.