Saudi Arabia: Detention of Husain Abu al-Khair


Husain Abu al-Khair is a 65-year-old Jordanian man. He was tortured and sentenced to death in an unfair trial by the Saudi government. Husain appealed his death sentence and is currently awaiting the verdict of his appeal. 

This information in this profile originally appeared on ADHRB’s website, our main sister organisation. 

On 18 May 2014, the Saudi Frontier Corps arrested Husain who was traveling from Jordan to Saudi Arabia as a driver for a Saudi woman. Saudi officers arrested him on suspicion of possession of narcotic pills in his car and detained him.  

During his detention at the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Al-Hakel province, Saudi officers tortured him for 12 days. They hung him from his feet and beat his stomach, head, feet, hands, and face. In addition to the physical torture, Abu al-Khair was subjected to psychological torture and the debasement of his dignity through verbal abuse and insults.  Because of the torture, Husain suffers from pain in his legs and stomach. There is an overall deterioration in his mental and physical health condition in general. 

Moreover, Abu Al-Khair confessed to the drug trafficking charge against him under the duress of torture. By consequence, Saudi Arabia has violated the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which the Kingdom acceded to in September 1997.  

Additionally, the Saudi authorities subjected Husain to an unfair trial for different reasons. First of all, even if he explained to the court that the confession was given under torture, the court allowed the prosecution to use the confession against Husain. Secondly, at least one of the judges was not a certified judicial officer; he was a religious cleric. Thirdly, the Saudi government prevented Husain from having a lawyer present during his trial. Finally, the court sentenced Husain to death for the drug charges, contrary to the international requirement that this be reserved only for “the most serious crimes.” By consequence, Saudi Arabia has contravened Husain’s right to a fair trial enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Arab Charter on Human Rights (ACHR).  

Husain appealed the verdict all the way to the Supreme Court, which reversed his sentence and ordered a retrial. However, the retrial was also unfair for the same previous reasons. The retrial resulted in his death sentence being issued again. Husain has appealed this second death sentence and is awaiting the results of his appeal. Pending the judgment of the Appeal, Abu al-Khair is currently suffering due to difficult conditions in prison. Abu al-Khair is currently imprisoned in Tabuk jail. 

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) encourages Saudi Arabia’sauthorities to respect their international obligations by annulling Husain Abu al-Khair’s conviction. Any trial should be conducted in respect of international standards ensuring fair trials. In this specific case, the ECDHR calls upon Saudi Arabia to investigate Husain’s claims of torture and hold the perpetrators responsible. Finally, we call on Saudi Arabia to immediatelyprovide physical and mental health treatment to all prisoners in that case.