Saudi Arabia halts deportation of four Uyghurs to China

Riyadh: After worldwide protests by human rights groups, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday halted the deportation of four Uyghur individuals to China, which included a woman and her 13-year-old daughter.

Buheliqiemu Abula and her teenage daughter were detained near Mecca in Saudi Arabia on March 31 and told by police that they faced deportation to China along with two Uyghur men already held, according to UK-based human rights organization, Amnesty International.

The planned deportation was scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening, however, the move was eventually halted.

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“The deportation of the 4 #Uyghurs didn’t go ahead last night but they are still at imminent risk. It is crucial that governments with diplomatic ties to Saudi Arabia continue to urge authorities to halt the deportation and allow them to go to a country of their choice,” Amnesty International informed in a tweet.

Abula is the former wife of Nuermeiti Ruze, who with Aimidoula Waili has been detained without charge in Saudi Arabia since November 2020.

Religious scholar Aimidoula Waili and his friend Nuermaimaiti Ruze have been detained in Saudi Arabia since November 2020 without explanation, the human rights group said.

Under the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement and as a State Party to the UN Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is obliged not to return anyone to a country where they would face a real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, persecution and other serious human rights violations, Amnesty International further said.

“Forcibly returning these four Uyghur people would be an unconscionable violation of Saudi Arabia’s obligations under international law. The Saudi authorities must not even think about sending them to China, where they will be subjected to arbitrary detention, persecution, and possibly to torture,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said.

Over the last many years, China has unleashed a heavy crackdown in the ethnic minority-dominated Xinjiang province of the country. The actions of the Chinese government have been widely described as genocide and ethnic cleansing.

At least 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are believed to have been held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017, purportedly to prevent religious extremism and terrorist activities.

Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centers. The government has denied repeated allegations from multiple sources that it has tortured people in the camps or mistreated other Muslims living in Xinjiang.

The United States and parliaments of several Western countries have declared that China’s repression and maltreatment of the Uyghurs amount to genocide and crimes against humanity, as per Radio Free Asia.

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