The Independent has promised that all editorial practices will reflect global standards and hopes to foster debate among new audiences. But critics are weary, fearing that the new platforms will be used to propagate Saudi positions across the region. Such concerns are valid, considering that Reporters Without Borders ranks Saudi Arabia 169 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.
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Non-refoulement is the central principle of international refugee law, which stipulates that nobody can be returned to their country of origin or any country where they have a well-founded fear of torture or persecution. As a compromise, the GCM does not explicitly include the words ‘non-refoulement’ but it does stipulate in Objective 21 ‘the prohibition of collective expulsion and of returning migrants when there is a real and foreseeable risk of death and torture’.
Local and international human rights organizations have documented the inhumane conditions in Syrian detention facilities, and testimonies from the prisoners who managed to be released focused on the torture they faced inside. Prisons are overcrowded and unsanitary. Detainees are given inadequate food and sometimes starved, and suffer from medical neglect. Torture is routinely and systematically implemented, on a very large scale. Women, and men, have suffered rape and sexual abuse.
The arrest comes at the same time that Saudi Arabia has detained a number of prominent women’s rights activists, ironically just ahead of the date set to lift the ban on women driving in the kingdom. The arrests of both the activists and al-Rashid have provoked an outcry from rights groups and a statement of concern from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, but so far international action has been limited.
Samah Hadid, the deputy director of Amnesty International, said that most human rights activists in the country were either in prison or on trial, their whereabouts still undisclosed. The others, she added, risk arrest at any time. MBS is clearly remaking Saudi Arabia in his image, while proving to be just as authoritarian as the rulers before him.
“Once the government witnessed the so-called Arab Spring, it got scared so it put all the defendants in jail, all the people reporting human rights violations. It’s a scandal, this country. All defendants should be released if the UAE wants to be compatible with its public proclamations towards international relations.”
An Amnesty International report accused European governments of being ‘knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions’. However, In the wake of the revelations of the Libyan slave trade, EU officials announced plans to team up with the African Union in a joint task force of police and intelligence agencies targeting human trafficking.