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HRW: Saudi Ritz Carlton torture needs investigating

The Ritz Carlton, Riyadh, [File photo]
The Ritz Carlton, Riyadh, [File photo]

Human Rights Watch has called on Saudi Arabia to investigate abuse allegations and deaths in custody over the several wealthy individuals who were detained in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh late last year.

The statement released today highlights concerns of “physically mistreated or coerced prominent people” detained over an anti-corruption campaign in November 2017 when Saudi princes, businessmen and government officials were held at the Ritz Carlton. According to the New York Times, 17 of the detainees were taken to hospital due to physical abuse. One of the detainees died in custody and had signs of a “twisted” neck.

“The alleged mistreatment at the Ritz Carlton is a serious blow to Mohammad bin Salman’s [MBS] claims to be a modernising reformist,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said. “While MBS jaunts across Western capitals to gin up foreign investments, investors should think twice about the Saudis’ cavalier dismissal of the rule of law and fundamental rights.”

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At the time of the anti-corruption move by MBS, Human Rights Watch warned that these mass arrests occurred outside a “recognisable legal framework”. Detainees were forced to trade financial and business assets for their freedom, rendering Ritz Carlton a temporary prison.

Saudi Arabia’s attorney general announced in late January this year that 381 people have been released by settlement or because there is insufficient evidence to continue their detention. The government later released information that it seized over 400 billion Saudi Riyals worth of “real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets” from the detainees.

In recent years Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment inside Saudi Arabia’s prisons. In addition, Saudi Arabia has used secret courts to extract “confessions to sentence defendants to serious punishments, including the death penalty”, the statement read.

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