H.E. Dr. Bandar al-‘Iban
Human Rights Commission
Riyadh - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Dear Dr. al-‘Iban,
Human Rights Watch writes to request the assistance of the Human Rights Commission in determining the whereabouts of Jordanian national Zuhair Jamal Hamdan Hamdan, whom eyewitnesses say was last seen in the custody of Saudi border guards at the Quraiyat land border crossing between Jordan and Saudi Arabia on September 19, 2009. He has been missing without a trace since then.
Human Rights Watch has learned that the Saudi authorities informed the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs around January 23, 2010 that they have no knowledge of Hamdan's whereabouts.
We urge you to press for an investigation of the whereabouts of Hamdan and to provide the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hamdan's family detailed information on the process and results of this investigation.
Hamdan traveled to Saudi Arabia on September 9, 2009 on Jordanian passport number 724224 with a group of over 40 other Jordanians to perform the lesser pilgrimage (‘umra) at holy sites in Mekka and Medina.
Human Rights Watch spoke with Hamdan's fellow travelers in late September and early October 2009. They stated that the group stayed together for the entire journey, and left Mekka in the early hours of September 19, arriving at the Quraiyat border crossing around 7 a.m. The border was still closed.
Members of the group have stated that between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., a Saudi border official inspected the passports of the travelers. After a short while, a man wearing not a uniform, but a white dishdasha and reported to be of average height and weight, around 35 to 40 years old, came and asked for Zuhair Hamdan. This man, who acted as though he were a Saudi official, then brought Hamdan inside the border inspection building, A few fellow passengers accompanied Hamdan inside, where another official looked up his name on a computer and said that there was an entry in the official Saudi registry banning Hamdan from leaving Saudi territory, but that it might be due to similarities in name. The man in the white dishdasha then entered another office and spoke to a Saudi border official dressed in uniform, who informed Hamdan that he had to take routine procedures, inform the relevant authorities, and that the bus should not wait, because these procedures could take until the next morning. Hamdan asked a fellow passenger to take his bag and give it to his family in Jordan, and the bus left. Fellow passengers last saw Hamdan with these Saudi officials, who held his passport.
After arriving back in Amman the same day, fellow travelers contacted Hamdan's family and called officials in the governorate of Tabuk, responsible for the area of Quraiyat. They only reached an official there after the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which began on September 20, 2010, who (via telephone) denied that Saudi border officials had arrested Hamdan. The family then alerted the Jordanian foreign ministry, which informed the family that it had sent an inquiry to the Saudi authorities, and indicated, according to Hamdan's family, that Hamdan was transferred from Tabuk to Jeddah via Riyadh. The Jordanian General Intelligence Department also made enquiries about Hamdan from fellow passengers. The family did not receive news until on January 23, 2010 the Jordanian foreign ministry informed them of a reply from Saudi officials stating that Hamdan's whereabouts in Saudi Arabia were unknown.
Your Excellency, there is every reason to believe that Hamdan was in the custody of Saudi officials at the time his whereabouts were last known. It has taken over five months for Hamdan's family to learn about the results of an internal Saudi inquiry into his whereabouts that was unable to shed light on what happened to Hamdan in Saudi custody. If he has been detained, the family should have information about his place of detention and the charges against him, and he should have access to a lawyer and to consular officials.
In December 2006, the United Nations opened for signature the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The convention defines the grave and serious violation of human rights of an enforced disappearance as
the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.
Human Rights Watch urges Saudi Arabia to become the first Arab state to accede to this convention to close the remaining gap of two additional necessary states parties for the convention to enter into force. Saudi Arabia should further issue national legislation in accordance with the convention.
We look forward to receiving information from you about progress in locating Zuhair Hamdan.
Sarah Leah Whitson