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The Price of Reform: Human Rights Violations in Saudi Arabia

Despite the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s commitment to reform, Saudi Arabia’s economy and the positive change for women and youth,

alarming human rights violations have been reported, notably by Human Rights Watch in its report ‘The High Cost of Change: Repression Under Saudi Crown Prince Tarnishes Reforms’.

Since 2017 when Mohammed bin Salman acceded to the throne, hundreds of critics of the Crown Prince’s leadership have been the target of repression and abusive practices. Some of them, including prominent scholars, intellectuals, clerics, women’s rights advocates, the royal family and business elites, were arrested and detained. The due process violations include long-term arbitrary detention without charge, unofficial places of detention, exhorting financial assets or public statements in return for release. Some individuals were victims of cyber spying as well as online harassment. Some individuals, such as the prominent cleric Salman Al-Awda and the reformist religious thinker Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, were charged for peacefully expressing their political or religious opinions, for which Saudi prosecutors tried to impose the death penalty. Additionally, some of the targeted individuals’ family members were banned from traveling outside the country, had their assets frozen and were denied access to government services.

Some individuals claimed that they were tortured and ill-treated while in detention. In particular, four women’s rights advocates were tortured by means of electric shocks, whippings, waterboarding, sexual harassment and assault. Other individuals were detained in the Ritz-Carlton for interrogation, where they were beaten, blindfolded, shocked with electricity, etc.

ACHRS is appalled by these human rights violations and stands in solidarity with the Saudi citizens targeted by the Crown Prince’s regime. It demands the international community to acknowledge, respond to these human rights violations and commit to end arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment as well as restrictions on the freedom of expression.

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