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Legal Expert Anis Kassim: ‘Saudi authorities violate international law by constantly arresting Palestinians’

Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with prisoners in Saudi jails, in front of the Red cross office, in Gaza city on on 16 October 2019. [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with prisoners in Saudi jails, in front of the Red cross office, in Gaza city on on 16 October 2019. [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Palestinian expert on international law, Dr Anis Kassim, advocates that the Saudi authorities should immediately release all Palestinian and Jordanian detainees, principally because the arrest process does not rest on any legal grounds, and demands the extradition of prisoners to Jordan.

In an exclusive interview with Quds Press, Kassim, who is also the chairman of the Palestinians Abroad Conference, expressed his surprise that the arrest process had occurred in the first place, noting that for decades, the detainees have always had a good reputation in Saudi Arabia. He explained that the way they were arrested, and the nature of the charges, constitute a clear violation of international law.

A year ago, Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested dozens of Palestinian students, academics and residents on its soil, including Mohammad Al-Khudari, who was responsible for coordinating relations between  Hamas and the Saudi Kingdom, without formal charges being brought against them. Some of the detainees have already been tried, however, their fate still remains unknown, human rights organisations reported.

READ: Remembering Saudi’s arrest of Hamas’ Al-Khodari one year on 

Quds Press learned that on 8 March, the Saudi authorities proceeded with trying around 62 Palestinians (some of whom were Jordanian passport holders), residing on Saudi territory.

The interview transcript with Dr Kassim is as follows:

How did you perceive the proceedings of the arrests and trials executed by the Saudi authorities against Jordanian and Palestinian detainees?

The arrest process did not rest on any legal grounds. The detainees were devoting their efforts to public service and support of the Palestinian people, and most importantly, the Saudi authorities have been aware of all their activities for decades.

The detainees, according to the information we have, have always enjoyed a sound and credible reputation in the kingdom. Furthermore, in the past, the Saudi authorities used to encourage the prisoners’ charitable work, and accordingly, we absolve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from interiorising any intention to prosecute those young Palestinians.

How do you explain the method of arrest, the nature of the charges and denying detainees access to lawyers, in accordance with international law?

The international law rejects all those procedures that have been, and are still taking place, because no crime has been proven on the detainees’ behalf, and still to this day, with a whole year having passed, we do not know the nature of the charges that they are being tried for. If the charges are related to terrorism, then there is no anti-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia.

Do you think that the arrests came within political or legal frameworks?

I think that the arrests are political. That is why the detainees should not be tried at all on charges they did not commit.

There are serious concerns that the detainees might contract the coronavirus in Saudi prisons. What is your comment on that?

According to the international protocol, the Saudi authorities are obliged to release the detainees immediately, and extradite them to their country, where they will either be tried or released, based on the judgment of competent authorities. This is exactly what happened in several other countries, where authorities have concerns of having the prisons contaminated with COVID-19. As such, the prisoners must be released without delay.

With regard to the Palestinian and Jordanian prisoners in the occupation prisons, who can also become infected with coronavirus, how do you view the occupation’s intransigence on this serious issue?

Jordanian or Palestinian prisoners in the occupation prisons are in a different situation, because according to international law, they are considered prisoners of war, and thus, must be treated in accordance with the regulations of the Third Geneva Convention. The abuse inflicted on the Palestinian captives by the Israeli occupation, and the authorities’ intentional reluctance to apply the necessary preventive measures to protect them from the virus, is considered a war crime.

What is required from the Jordanian government regarding the issue of the Jordanian prisoners held in the occupation prisons?

According to international law, the Jordanian government is supposed to demand the release of all its prisoners, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in light of the spread of the coronavirus. The prisoners are the nationals of a country that signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994, and therefore the occupation authorities are required to hand over the Jordanian prisoners for fear that the captives may be infected with the virus.

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