Saudi authorities must immediately release four Uyghurs – including a 13-year-old girl and her mother – who are at grave risk of being taken to repressive internment camps if sent back to China, Amnesty International said today amid fears that deportation plans for the group may already be under way.
Buheliqiemu Abula and her teenage daughter were detained near Mecca on Thursday and told by police they faced deportation to China along with two Uyghur men already held, according to a message received by Abula’s friends.
Abula is the former wife of Nuermeiti Ruze, who with Aimidoula Waili has been detained without charge in Saudi Arabia since November 2020.
“Deporting these four people – including a child – to China, where Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are facing a horrific campaign of mass internment, persecution and torture, would be an outrageous violation of international law,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“With time seemingly running out to save the four Uyghurs from this catastrophic extradition, it is crucial that other governments with diplomatic ties to Saudi Arabia step in now to urge the Riyadh authorities to uphold their obligations and stop the deportations.”
Religious scholar Aimidoula Waili and his friend Nuermaimaiti Ruze have been detained in Saudi Arabia since November 2020 without explanation. Family members of the two Uyghur men told Amnesty International last month that Waili and Ruze were transferred from Jeddah to Riyadh and back again on March 16 – a move they believed signalled their imminent extradition to China.
Strategic allies of Saudi Arabia, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, must not stand by while it wilfully ignores human rights law.Lynn Maalouf
Buheliqiemu Abula had been able to maintain regular contact with her ex-husband Nuermaimaiti Ruze until two weeks ago. The last time Abula received a phone call from Ruze was on 20 March, when Ruze recounted that he had told the Saudi authorities he and Waili “would rather die here than be sent back to China”.
It appears that Abula and her daughter have now also been detained and face the same deportation threat.
Under the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement and as a State Party to the UN Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is obliged not to return anyone to a country where they would face a real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, persecution and other serious human rights violations.
“The Saudi government must abandon any attempt to extradite the four Uyghurs to China and release them from detention immediately, unless they are charged with an internationally recognizable crime,” Lynn Maalouf said.
“Strategic allies of Saudi Arabia, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, must not stand by while it wilfully ignores human rights law. The international community must do everything it can to prevent the illegal extradition of Uyghurs to China.”
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.
Earlier the same year, another piece of Amnesty research described how the children of internment camp detainees are often sent to state-run “orphan camps” where they face indoctrination and are cut off from their parents.