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Saudi Arabia claims to protect the elderly while threatening their lives with detention and harsh treatment

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia says it endeavors to provide care and concern for the elderly and is aware of the importance of using all means possible to promote their rights.

In a discussion during the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 21 September 2020, the head of the Human Rights Section of the Saudi mission to the United Nations, Meshaal Bin Ali al-Balawi, listed systems he believes guarantee these rights and said that the government has a strategy to care for the elderly.

ESOHR notes that al-Balawi’s statement does not accord with reality. While Saudi Arabia says it follows a strategy to protect the elderly, it deliberately throws them into prisons, on rights-related charges, without any concern for their medical and psychological status.

Over recent years, ESOHR has documented arrests, harsh treatment, and fears of torture against the elderly, including the arrests of many older women such as Aida al-Ghamdi, who remains in arbitrary detention. Likewise, Sheikh Hussein al-Radi, who is nearing the age of 70, remains in detention on account of his views. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and amid grave fears for the lives of the elderly in particular, the government has no strategy to protect them inside places of detention. According to ESOHR’s tracking, no elderly detainees have been released during the pandemic.

ESOHR stresses that medical neglect, in some cases, has led to the death of older detainees, including human rights advocate Abdullah al-Hamid, who died in detention at the age of 70.

ESOHR believes that the strategies touted by Saudi Arabia as protecting the elderly are not coupled with actual steps to release the elderly and stop arresting them due to their peaceful activities.

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