The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has disclosed evidence that Saudi Arabia has forcibly disappeared three Libyan nationals for over 500 days, calling on authorities to reveal their whereabouts.
Muhammad Hussein Ali Al-Khadrawi, Mahmoud Ali Bashir Rajab and Hassan Mohammed Salem Zuaait disappeared once they arrived at Jeddah airport to leave Saudi Arabia after performing pilgrimage in June 2017.
Saudi authorities at first denied any knowledge of the three men, but later admitted that they had been detained and then released. However, Euro-Med said that their families have had no news of them since their alleged release. There is no record of them re-entering Libya.
“A month and a half after detention, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Libyan Consulate in a letter that the detained persons were returned to where they came from, which was interpreted as: returned to Libya. However, the Libyan Government denied … that the three arrived in Libya,” the monitor said.
The Saudi security authorities stated that they had arrested the men on claims of being wanted by the Libyan authorities, a claim denied by the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord.
Libya’s President Council headquartered in Tripoli stressed that it had nothing to do with the disappearances, and called on Saudi Arabia to allow the Libyan Consul to visit the detainees and learn about their whereabouts.
“Saudi Arabia’s letter indicating that these persons were ‘returned to where they came from’, is vague, casting doubts on Saudi Arabia’s intentions and credibility, especially after Jamal Khashoggi’s case,” said Sarah Pritchett, Euro-Med’s spokeswoman, referencing the case of the Saudi journalist who was murdered in the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, reportedly on the orders of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.
The families of the disappeared have expressed concern that Saudi Arabia has handed over their sons to Libya’s eastern government led by General Khalifa Haftar.
The Libyan House of Representatives headquartered in Benghazi is backed by forces backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Israel.
Their backing of Haftar has been attributed to their desire to bolster the Libyan commander as an alternative to the Islamist forces in the region, thought to be backed by Qatar and Turkey.
“If this proves to be the case, Riyadh will have to answer for two illegal actions: The first is the supposed handing over of Libyans to a party it did not name, and the second is collaborating with a body other than the UN-recognised Government of National Accord,” Pritchett said.
Euro-Med Monitor also stated that they have a testimony from a prisoner detained in a prison under the command of Haftar, who claims that he saw Muhammad Al-Khadrawi, one of the three subjected to enforced disappearance, being tortured.
“Since the disappearance of my son a year and a half ago, I and the family have been living in a very stressful situation. We do not really know what is happening to him or what charges he is facing.
We have not even been able to take legal action to ensure that he is entitled to a fair trial,” said Al-Khadrawi’s father, Hussein. “We fear my son will be killed the same way Khashoggi was killed.”