Al-Sharq al-Awsat’s article (Turki al-Suhail, “’Human Rights’ Delegation Members Have Conflicting Positions at The Conclusion of Their Visit to Saudi Arabia,” December 24) about Human Rights Watch’s visits to Saudi prisons attempts to contrive an internal disagreement where there is none. Mr. al-Suhail falls back on an erroneous article in al-Watan (Ali al-Qahtani, “Confirmed: Obtained Good Information from Inside the Prisons. The Organization ‘Human Rights Watch’ Visits al-Ha’ir Prison and Speaks with Prisoners Individually,” December 3) which inaccurately cited a member of Human Rights Watch’s recent delegation to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat’s article (Turki al-Suhail, “’Human Rights’ Delegation Members Have Conflicting Positions at The Conclusion of Their Visit to Saudi Arabia,” December 24) about Human Rights Watch’s visits to Saudi prisons attempts to contrive an internal disagreement where there is none. Mr. al-Suhail falls back on an erroneous article in al-Watan (Ali al-Qahtani, “Confirmed: Obtained Good Information from Inside the Prisons. The Organization ‘Human Rights Watch’ Visits al-Ha’ir Prison and Speaks with Prisoners Individually,” December 3) which inaccurately cited a member of Human Rights Watch’s recent delegation to Saudi Arabia. The delegation member never stated to al-Watan that prison officials had allowed Human Rights Watch to visit all areas of the al-Ha’ir prison “without exception,” or that “we did not find anything [problematic]” in the solitary confinement area, or that prisoners were in solitary confinement “as a result of their [mental] illness.”

Meanwhile, Saudi officials mislead al-Sharq al-Awsat readers when they say “Naturally, we did not prevent [Human Rights Watch] from carrying out their mission.” In fact, the prison authorities did interfere while we were speaking to prisoners individually. The prisoners in the solitary confinement section appeared to be suffering from mental illnesses and should not have been in solitary confinement to begin with unless required on medical grounds. Prison officials also promised that we could return to visit other wings of the prison. When Human Rights Watch attempted to visit other sections of the prison, officials blocked our visit and despite repeated calls to the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Human Rights Commission, we did not receive any further permission to visit the detention facilities we had requested.

We are disappointed that Saudi officials did not fulfill their promises to allow us access to their prisons, as many other countries in the world do. Human Rights Watch can only engage in a candid dialogue with Saudi officials on how to bring their detention facilities in line with international human rights standards if we are allowed to collect facts about the prisons freely.