His Highness Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
Minister of the Interior
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
We write to request information on the whereabouts and condition of Khaled al-Natour, 27, a Jordanian citizen whom Saudi authorities detained at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh on January 6, 2013. According to information we have received, he has been held incommunicado since that date and authorities have not released any information regarding the reasons for his arrest or his whereabouts. We call on you to release him without delay or for the appropriate authorities to charge him before a court of law if there is evidence that he is responsible for any criminal offense.
A family member told Human Rights Watch that al-Natour entered Saudi Arabia with several business colleagues to attend a seminar in Riyadh related to his work as a computer programmer. Officials at the Saudi Embassy in Amman had granted al-Natour a single-entry visa to enter the Kingdom in December 2012.
The family member told Human Rights Watch that despite repeated attempts to solicit information about al-Natour’s condition and whereabouts through the Jordanian Foreign Ministry and Jordanian embassy in Riyadh, they have not yet received any reply. According to the family member, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Joudeh confirmed his detention in a private meeting on February 1, but ministry representatives have since then repeatedly told the family that Saudi authorities have not responded to any official requests for information.
Al-Natour is affiliated with the Herak (Movements) youth group in Jordan, which has advocated for political and economic reforms in that country since early 2011 through street demonstrations and public activism.
Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that al-Natour’s detention in Saudi Arabia may stem from his attendance at several demonstrations in Jordan in late 2011 protesting the intervention of Saudi security services in Bahrain in March 2011. At one of these demonstrations, in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate in the Jebel Amman neighborhood of Amman in September 2011, Jordanian police arrested al-Natour and another Herak member, and authorities later charged both with assaulting a security officer, which carries a penalty of between three months to two years imprisonment. The case is currently ongoing.
At another demonstration in front of the Bahraini embassy in the Shmeisani neighborhood of Amman on September 4, 2011, al-Natour responded on Jordan Days TV to rumors that Jordanians troops were among those involved in the Bahrain crackdown, stating, “We reject turning our people into hired guns so that [Gulf countries] will send billions of dollars [to Jordan]…”
Article 14.3 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, to which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a signatory, states that “[a]nyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, in a language that he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. He shall be entitled to contact his family members.” Article 14.4 and 14.6 guarantee the right of any detained person to be brought promptly before a judge and to petition a competent court to decide without delay on the lawfulness of his or her arrest.
In view of the details surrounding this case and Saudi Arabia’s obligations under international human rights law, we request that the ministry immediately provide information to Jordanian officials and members of al-Natour’s family regarding his whereabouts and current condition. We further call on Saudi authorities to release al-Natour without delay or charge him before a court of law if authorities have evidence that he may be responsible for any crime. If the decision is to charge al-Natour, we request that the Interior Ministry allow him immediate access to lawyers and family members.
We look forward to receiving a response regarding this important matter.
Sarah Leah Whitson
Middle East and North Africa Division