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Rights group launched for imprisoned scholars in Saudi Arabia

A new organisation Standing Against Nefarious & Arbitrary Detention (SANAD) launched last week in an online conference titled “Working towards a world that respects human rights”, focusing on reported human rights violations, especially of detainees in Saudi Arabia.

The five-member team each spoke on issues surrounding human rights in Saudi Arabia, especially regarding the freedom to criticise the regime and violations perpetrated against those who have been detained, imprisoned, or even disappeared. The team also spoke about how they plan to tackle these issues.

Belal Ithkiran, CEO of SANAD, opened the conference by recognising the deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. Ithkiran continued by setting out the purpose of SANAD “to defend political and civil rights in Saudi Arabia, monitor and highlight human rights violations.”

Ithkiran confirmed that SANAD will “seek to identify anyone who has been detained for criticising the regime and those who have been denied due process or have had their rights violated.”

Dr Sue Conlan, a human rights activist and lawyer, set out how the organisation aims to achieve its goal of establishing human rights in Saudi Arabia. Dr Conlan highlighted three areas: media, collaboration with other similar organisations, and bringing forward legal and civil proceedings where appropriate.

“We aim to build databases on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia,” said Dr Conlan, an honorary member of the organisation. Dr Conlan continued by explaining that SANAD “will collate evidence and initiate legal proceedings against anyone involved in perpetrating human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.” Dr Conlan then confirmed that SANAD will aim to “increase the awareness around the dire human rights reality in Saudi Arabia and increase the pressure on the regime to respect the rule of law and human rights.” The organisation hopes to do this by “communicating and building relationships with individuals and entities.”

Ithkiran then returned to speak about how, as an organisation, SANAD aims to assist in establishing human rights in Saudi Arabia, and that it hopes to develop an optimistic society that looks to the future in a professional manner by peaceful means.

Dr Saeed Al-Ghamdi, the chairman of the board of trustees at SANAD and an academic with many years of studying Saudi politics, said that Thursday’s launch was “to support the oppressed and push back the oppressors.” He explained the dire situation in Saudi Arabia by stating that the “human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is passing through a very difficult and painful time.” On the point of the judicial system in the Kingdom, Dr Al-Ghamdi confirmed that “the courts are dictated to by the regime”, explaining that this resulted in “prolonged sentences for a stance, an opinion, a tweet or a word they’ve said.”

Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, a board member of SANAD, said that the path ahead will be “difficult, but it is not impossible.” Abdullah, whose mother is currently being unlawfully detained, ended on an optimistic note, saying, “Victory will belong to those who are patient, resilient and steadfast.”

Finally, Fahad Al-Ghweidi, another member of the board, came to the podium. Al-Ghweidi, who has been detained on three occasions in Saudi Arabia for his activism, stated that the Saudi government abuses can be broken down to four phases:

“As a previous detainee myself, I know too well these four phases. I know all too well how they will follow you. How they will follow an individual before they’re detained. I know too well what happens inside the prisons and I know too well how you are denied your most basic of rights as a detainee. I also know too well the obsession that detainee suffers after they are released from prison.”

Al-Ghweidi concluded by demanding “the decreasing of pressure upon the people. We demand the release of the political detainees, who were detained oppressively.”

SANAD has now joined the slew of human rights organisations focusing on the increasing violations allegedly committed by the Saudi regime.

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