The Families of prisoners of conscience reveal their suffering…
Human rights violations are not restricted to prisoners but they reach even their families. They share suffering of deprivation, anxiety, and the unknown fate in remote prisons built in distant places.
The families of prisoners of conscience go through illegal human rights violations that degenerate human dignity and humiliate and insult every member of the family.
An increase of human rights violation inside Saudi General Investigation Prisons has been noticed since at what is known as Arab spring on 2011, where many movements demanded constitutional and human rights reforms.
Aman Center highlights and draws the attention of local and international communities as well as human rights originations inside and out, to the situation of the families of prisoners of conscience who suffer from the absence of implement local and international laws. The families suffer also from the cruel treatment, many officers try to irritate and insult the prisoners’ families when they try to locate him after the arrest, or when they request a visit or a phone call. The families are obstructed from getting authorized and legitimacy rights of contacting and visiting the detainees at decent circumstances in accordance with Islamic laws and international conventions that Saudi Arabia has signed on.
Aman Center for Human Rights Watch examined what the families of prisoners of conscience deal with when visiting the detainees, and owing to that Aman Center reveals testimonies of some wives, mothers, and sisters of the prisoners of conscience who are from Shiite community, and were arrested since 2011. The families are exposed to awful procedures at every visit to their relatives, in the eastern region, Riyadh, or Jeddah.
Witnesses narrate stories of Saudi regime violation of human rights. Aman Center ensured to keep the narrative as the detainees’ families expressed, and Aman Center only report their own statements.
• Threats and pressure after the arrest and disappearance:
The testimony of wetness No (1) is for Lady (S.M) a sister of a detainee from Qatif, who has been arrested after the peaceful demonstration.
(I will uncover a very small part of the suffering which encounters many women of the detainees’ family…
Before the relative comes out of the solitary confinement, we must remain silent and not to check on him repeatedly, and if we did so the authorities will throw us like a ball from one department to another and every department will say that they do not have the detainee and they do not know anything about him. Therefore we wonder who knows?! It goes even more, they threat the one who calls a few times that they will issue a warrant against him. We can do nothing except being patient even on our worst circumstances, and this struggle last for about six month to a whole year, which is the period of the solitary confinement).
This is a part of the testimony for a witness whose brother is in prison for more than two years.
Witness No (2) (B.R) describes the visits to her son in prison:
(At the beginning of a trip I get mixed emotions, anxious to meet my son but worry and scared of going on this dangerous trip, where I become exposed to mistreatment and insult. They asked many questions, like why am I here? What am I going to say? And if I understand that my son had disobeyed the authorities.
Everyone stares and checks us, and we have to answer them before we can get on the inspection area. They ask us to take off socks, leave our cell phone, and they check any bags we have. During privet visits, they ask us to take our cloths and examine our body by scanner sticks and then by their hands!
• Violation of privacy:
Witness No (1) continue her statement while trying to hold her tears, but her words reveal the suffering from physiological torture practiced by prison guards and inspectors.
(Sometimes we encounter difficulties that lead to visit cancelation. We always have to follow what they call it rules, which changed whenever an employee is changed. Sometimes they tell us that we will not have a visit because we forgot to bring the appointment paper, even though the visit should be on their system. They do not appreciate how much effort it takes us to reach the prison, since we cross more than 400 kilometers.
Sometimes we get luck and we get the chance of meeting the supervisor and we could convince him of allowing us to have a visit, and that will be if we could stay quiet and calm otherwise he will just firmly refuse our request.
The inspection is becoming intense day after day, they examine us with the scanner stick yet they violate our privacy by touching every part of us. We cannot complain or criticize their way or we will be denied from the visit. When it comes to the children, they will take off even there diapers. This is all in the normal visit and not the privet ones.
On the other hand, during the privet visits they ask women to take all of their clothes and if they refused, they will be denied from the scheduled visit. Likewise, if we had some health conditions and we asked a rescheduled visit throughout the phone, we would be lucky if we had one. However, sometimes they refuse saying that we do not have an appointment paper.
Since we make the appointment by the phone, they know we do not have a proof. When we give them the name of the employee who made the appointment, they would ask us to give them his Ext Phone No. which they should know not us. On another times, they will keep transferring us from one person to another until someone shout at us yelling that we talked badly to them, and that will be because on one time we lost our temper and complained.
On every visit we face annoying practices, on many times they told us “talk to the wall”, when we ask to speak to a supervisor to solve any problem that encounter us.
They refuse to provide any help that could make our visit easy, and they would not hesitate to do any practice that would humiliate us and cause us to be deprived from the visit.
I hope the world can see how much we suffer, and I hope that our voice reach all human rights organizations that can help us.)
• Inspection struggle:
Witness No (3) lady (F.H.F) speaks with a sadness tone when describing what happens when she visit her detainee husband, who has been arrested after the peaceful demonstration on 2011 at Qatif city.
(We struggle a lot especially with the employees at the main gate of the prison, who have bad attitude and harass the visitors intentionally. It is only one of thousand visit that goes peacefully, and most of the times it is like an investigation. When a man with us they ask why is he not wearing a shemagh and for women they ask where their guardian is. When we need something, they ask us to write a memo even for the simplest matters, and they tell us that every department has no connection with the other and it is going to be difficult on us to fallow.
On order to reach the visiting room we have to get through two stations by two buses each with different temperature which affects the children. The visit has roles and regulations that we are not informed with but we discover it by time, and these regulations change by the employees’ mode and desires. We have to be very careful and if our underwear had any accessories like an iron piece, it will be considered as a violation and a cause to cancel the visit. One situation that I will never forget is when my little daughter was prevented from bringing her school certificate to share her joy with her father. It was a big physiological trauma for her and there were no good justifications for that.
The infants’ inspection is horrible; there is no equipped place for that which leads us to put them in the cold ground during winter and the hot ground during summer. They take off all the babies clothes even there diapers, and if we forget something like a shoe they throw it away or on our faces!
It is forbidden to bring any nursery equipment except for a plastic transparent bottle, although inspection procedures and waiting extend for hours. The infant becomes tired and hungry, starts crying till the end of the visit, or sometimes will just be denied from the visit.
Tissues are forbidden and if children have running cold, we have to use the hard paper on the restrooms.
The visit of Eid holiday is only 10 minutes.
All this may not be applied on everyone, as I have said before the rules and regulations change depends on the employees.)
• Oppression and humiliation:
Witness No (4) lady (A.K) described her first visit to her husband after 6 month of his arrest, which was on 2012. They could not see him or contact him on phone during the whole six month.
(One my first visit I kept remembering his mother crying and children daily questions about him for the whole drive. The distance was only 45 minutes, but it was the longest day of my life. When we arrived, we were surprised by an awful view. There was a huge building surrounded with concrete walls in the middle of nowhere, where no human or life except for dozens of armored vehicles.
After a long drive we reached the first stop, the driver presented his ID and introduced the name of the detainee who we wanted to visit and we gave them the appointment paper. Then, we reached the second stop and there were two separate rooms, one for men and the other for women. There was also a very small room that barley accommodates two persons, and it was like a check point for all the official papers but more strict than the first point.
After, we want on a bus were we could see nothing not even a sunlight on an unknown road which made us feel terrify. We reached another point for checking papers and IDs, and after that we reached the personal inspection. Men inspection is less strict than women!
My children were scared from seeing all those security men, and I was scared myself from that awful view, everyone were looking at us like if we were criminals. I was thankful that my littlie daughter does not wear a diaper anymore, because that was going to be difficult in her and me.
I always felt disgust by their way of inspection, yet I always stay calm to maintain my children safety and mine and especially our detainees’ safety, since the General Intelligence Prison is a dangerous world that only people who were there know. There safety is what we seek. Despite what we go through from fear and humiliation during visits, we consider it only a small price to see our beloved ones.
After they finished from inspecting all the family members, they registered the prisoner name and his visitors’ names also with their age. Then we sat on a room that became very small and crowded with the increasing numbers of families who want to see their detainees’ relatives.
Then they announced the prisoner name and we got on a bus were we could see nothing, and it is very packed like if it was a tourist trip.
The bus stopped at last station where we have to wait again. We sat on the women waiting room till they called out our relative name, then we walked to a door were we saw a long lobby on the right and another on the left with dozens of rooms on them, which made us wonder why did we have to wait for such a long time.
We know and understand that all this procedures are meant to make us suffer, but all our tiredness goes away once we see our beloved ones. It is like a beautiful dream when we are with them but time pass very quickly, and we force to leave them again.
After that we want back to the same procedures on the way back. This struggle is repeated every mouth, but we keep our strength and patient because we know that God is with oppressed people.)
These are only examples from more than dozens of testimonies that moms, wives, and sisters of detainees reported to Aman Center. Over the past two months we met with the families of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and peaceful activists. However, many refuse to report to us out of fear that authorities may deprive them from their right to visit their relatives.
Aman Center for Human Rights Watch indicates that these testimonies represent many other families, and not only from Shia families but it extend on many other regions. However, with these cases it is more of a sectarian discrimination, and this reveals how Saudi prisons make a systematically mistreatments and violations toward the detainees and their families by excessively practicing procedures that cause humiliation and embarrassment. All this practices are without any legal justifications or security needs.
Aman Center condemns Saudi prisons authorities for their oppression and turture tward the detainees families, and for the hard and unnecessary visits measures.
Aman Center denounces Saudi Interior Ministry for adapting the approach of awful treatment that degrade human dignety, in order to spread fear and intimidation among the prisoners families so that they stop visiting and supporting their relatives.
The contents of these statements contradict with Islamic laws that stresses on the importance of communicating with relatives, and it also contradict with what is stated in Article 12 of the prison system and detention and the Regulations issued by the Ministerial Decree No. (3919) issued on 2/12/ 1969, which organize visiting rules for prisoners and detainees and communicating with them and sending approved gifts and clothes.
The information of these statements expose the violations done by “the General Intelligence prisons Department” toward detainees and their families which conflict with international agreements signed by Saudi government. Those agreements clearly stated the necessity of providing the protection of detainee rights and enabling him to contact with his family and to meet with them. Also, it is stated in Article VIII No. 1 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights that “it is prohibited to torture anyone physically or psychologically or to Subject him to cruel treatment or degrading or inhuman” which mean anyone at any location and at any place.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights also provides in Article 12 ” No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” This was also confirmed in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Article 1 of paragraph 17 of Part III.
Also it was mentioned on the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners that were recommended by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held in Geneva in 1955 and approved by the Economic and Social Council resolution 663 C (d -24) dated July 31, 1957 and 2076 (d -62) dated May 13 / May 1977 under the heading “Contact with the outside world” Article No. 37 stated ” Prisoners shall be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence and by receiving visits”.
Based on these materials approved by the Islamic laws and United Nations organization, and the charters of international human rights, Aman Center strongly condemns Saudi prisons management for the terrible treating of detainees families during the visit. This arbitrary approach is contrary to human rights principles, and includes an explicit violations to prison regulations that admit the right of having visits for political prisoners or criminal.
Aman Center also calls for opening the doors of Saudi prisons to an independent international human rights organizations, and to enable them of visiting the prison and detect the conditions of detainees, and to enable them to meet with detainees’ families, and listen to their statements about the development of Saudi prisons and abuses against them during their visit to their relatives.
Aman Center emphasis on the need to declare the regulations and laws for visiting in prisons, and introduce to the prisoners and their families, and to ensure a punishment for those who manipulate with them. Aman Center emphasis also on Saudi authorities to introduce the prisoners and their families with their rights on visits and calls openly, and to allow civil society to establish an independent oversight committees to ensure that prisoners and their families enjoy their rights.
Source: Saudi Human Rights