NEW YORK (Dispatches) – Representatives of the family of detained Saudi Princess Basmah bint Saud have filed an appeal with the United Nations requesting that the world body intervene in her case and demand Saudi authorities provide proof that she is alive.
The appeal was filed with UN experts at the Human Rights Council, and says that the treatment of Princess Basmah, who has been held incommunicado for over a year along with her daughter Suhoud al-Sharif, “may amount to torture”.
“There are real and serious concerns that Princess Basmah and Suhoud are arbitrarily detained, in circumstances that present a serious risk to life, have been denied their right to a fair trial, and that their treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment, contrary to international law,” the filing said.
The appeal was submitted by the London-based non-profit Grant Liberty, which works with prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, and an international counsel team at Doughty Street Chambers.
“In Saudi Arabia today, many activists and human rights defenders are languishing in jail simply for the crime of wanting a better world. They have been tortured, forced into hunger strikes and held in solitary confinement for months on end,” Lucy Rae, public relations director at Grant Liberty, said in a statement.
Basmah was reported to have been taken from her home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in March 2019 and imprisoned along with her daughter, Suhoud.
In a letter to the UN last year, the Saudi mission to the international body said Basmah has been accused of attempting to leave the country illegally, while Suhoud was arrested for the “offence of assaulting an agent”.
Meanwhile, French prosecutors have been probing complaints filed by seven employees against a Saudi prince that accuse him of keeping them in a state of modern-day slavery at his apartment outside Paris.
The women, most of them from the Philippines, had been recruited as maids in Saudi Arabia and worked for Prince Faisal Bin Turki Bin Abdallah Al Saud and his family there and in France, where the prince owns a luxurious apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy suburb west of Paris, for several years.
The prosecutors’ office in the suburb city of Nanterre said on Monday that the inquiry for human trafficking had been opened after the women filed complaints of modern-day slavery in October 2019, after they apparently ran away from the family during a trip to France.
The maids said they were forced to work 24 hours a day seven days a week, and barely had time to eat while serving the prince’s four children, who were allowed to spit on the women.
“The first time we met with them, what was shocking to see was that they were hungry. They were crying with hunger,” Anick Fougeroux, head of the NGO, SOS Esclaves (“Slaves”), told Le Parisien newspaper.