Morocco: Saudi national could face torture if forced to return

Saudi Arabian citizen Hassan Al Rabea, who was detained at Marrakesh airport in Morocco on his way to Türkiye on 14 January 2023, must not be returned to Saudi Arabia where he would be at real risk of torture and other human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.

Al Rabea was arrested at the request of Saudi Arabia and charged with “collaborating with a terrorist by assisting him with illegally exiting the Kingdom” of Saudi Arabia, allegedly in relation to him trying to help one of his brothers escape the state. 

We appeal directly to Prime Minister Akhannouch not to deport Hassan. If forced to return, he would be at serious risk of grave human rights violations including torture and other ill-treatment.

Amna Guellali

“Morocco’s Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch could decide at any moment to extradite Hassan Al Rabea to Saudi Arabia. We appeal directly to Prime Minister Akhannouch not to deport Hassan. If forced to return, he would be at serious risk of grave human rights violations including torture and other ill-treatment,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa.

The extradition of Al Rabea would amount to refoulement, the transfer of a person to a country where they would be at risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations. Refoulement is prohibited under international law. Morocco has an absolute obligation under international customary law and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment not to transfer anyone to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. 


Al Rabea, 26, who left Saudi Arabia over a year ago and had settled in Morocco for about six months, was arrested on a warrant issued by the Arab Interior Ministers Council, a cooperative body related to the internal security and criminal matters of many Arab states. He is currently being detained in Rabat’s Tiflet 2 prison pending an advisory opinion from Rabat’s Court of Cassation about Saudi Arabia’s extradition request, after which a final decision is made by the Prime Minister.

If deported, he would face being tried before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty research shows that every stage of the judicial process before the SCC is tainted with gross human rights abuses such as the denial of access to a lawyer, incommunicado detention, and convictions based solely on so-called ‘confessions’ extracted under torture. The SCC appeal process is also opaque and shrouded in secrecy. 

An SCC judge convicted Al Rabea’s older brother, Ali, on terrorism charges and used his discretionary powers to sentence him to death in November 2022, even though the prosecution had not demanded a death penalty. Two of Hassan’s cousins were executed last year. 

Since 2016, Amnesty has documented the execution of 31 men from Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a Muslim minority, to which Hassan belongs, following grossly unfair trials before the SCC under vague counter-terror and anti-cybercrime laws. Saudi Arabian authorities have historically discriminated against the Shi’a Muslim minority and subjected them to persecution.

More than 100 Saudi Arabian Shi’a activists have been tried before the SCC on vague and wide-ranging charges arising from their opposition to the government, including peaceful criticism in speeches or on social media, participation in anti-government protests and alleged involvement in violent attacks or espionage.