Human Rights Commission (Saudi Arabia)

The Human Right Commission is a Saudi government organization established on 12 September 2005 by the decision of the council of ministers. It claims to be independent of the Saudi government. The Commission states its aim as the protection and promotion of human rights in line with international standards. In March 2019, the Human Rights Commission defended the Saudi authorities' refusal to allow an international investigation into the 2 October 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.[1]

Human Rights Commission
Formation2005; 16 years ago (2005)
Founded atSaudi Arabia
PurposeHuman rights protection
HeadquartersSaudi Arabia, Riyadh
Chairman of the Board
Awwad Alawwad


The Commission states that it seeks to promote, defend and protect human rights in Saudi Arabia. It states that it is an independent organization, ensuring that all government entities are accomplishing the laws and regulations of human rights. The Commission states that it has the right, without any prior permission, to visit prisons at any time to ensure the implementation of human rights.[2]

The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights states that the Commission's activities aim to obscure and draw attention away from Saudi human rights violations. It criticized the Commission for making false and formulaic claims: for instance, they say it praised the Juveniles Law of March 2018, which prevented the execution of those who were minors at the time of their crime, as a success, while not mentioning that Saudi Arabia executed six underage people in April 2019.[3]


The Commission is governed by a board of directors chaired by the head of commission, and with a membership of full- and (non-voting[4]) part-time members.[5] All members are appointed by the President of the Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia, except for the Chairman and Vice-chairman, who are appointed by royal order.[4] All members of the council of ministers are also appointed, and dismissed, by royal order.[6]

In August 2019, Awwad Alawwad was appointed head of commission, by royal decree, with the rank of minister.[7][third-party source needed]


Nazia Quazi, 2010Edit

In 2009-2010, the Commission indicated that it was unable to help Nazia Quazi, a dual Canadian and Indian citizen, to return to her home in Canada. She was being held against her will in Saudi Arabia by her father, whom she claims confiscated her identity documents and credit cards, threatened her with a knife, and attempted to forcibly marry her to someone she does not know.[8]

Mass executions 2016Edit

in 2016, the Commission publicly supported mass executions. A meeting between Canadian public officials and Commission members was criticized by human-rights advocates, for treating the Commission as a serious watchdog.[9]

Feminists arrested in 2018Edit

In December 2018, the Commission visited Dhahban Central Prison and interviewed Loujain al-Hathloul and some of the other detainees of the 2018–2019 Saudi crackdown on feminists.[10][11][12] The visit was part of an investigation into allegations that torture was used against the women; Saud al-Qahtani, a close advisor to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, had allegedly been present at some of the torture sessions. Al Jazeera English judged it unlikely that the commission's investigation would lead to criminal charges against the torturers, and quoted a Saudi official who stated in reference to the commission's investigation, "I don't see how they will hold anyone accountable if they already publicly denied that the torture ever happened."[13]

An unidentified source who heard the testimony told the Wall Street Journal that at least eight of the 18 activists interviewed had been physically abused, and that Saud al-Qahtani had threatened to rape Loujain al-Hathloul, kill her, and throw her into the sewage. Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, and Samar Badawi were also said to have been tortured.[13]

2019: statements on Jamal KhashoggiEdit

In March 2019, at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the head of the Saudi Human Rights Commission at the time, Bandar bin Mohammed al-Aiban, called the 2 October 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi an "unfortunate accident" and opposed international investigation of the assassination. Al-Aiban claimed that three hearings had taken place in an internal Saudi court case dealing with the case, with the suspects' lawyers present. He stated that none of the suspects had been tortured. He stated, "We have taken those measures required for us to solve this heinous crime" and that the reason for Saudi Arabia refusing an international investigation was that that would constitute foreign interference and "doubting the integrity of [the Saudi] judicial apparatus."[1]

Sales of kafala workers, 2019 actionsEdit

The kafala system used for Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia gives sponsoring employees control over the worker's employment, allowing them to transfer the sponsorship without government intervention, including for profit. There are a large number of ads offering kalafa workers for sale or rent, and some apps have categories for such transactions. The Commission took steps to curb the publishing of these ads, and later met with some workers. They have said that they will prosecute anyone advertising the "sale, renting and sponsorship change of domestic workers in an illegal way."[14]

Hiring pr-firm Qorvis in 2020Edit

According to ALQST, the Human Rights Commission hired the US pr-firm Qorvis in 2020, for an annual sum of $684,000.[15]


  1. ^ a b Romo, Vanessa (14 March 2019). "Saudi Arabia Rejects Calls For Independent Investigation Into Khashoggi Killing". NPR. Archived from the original on 14 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  2. ^ "About HRC:Human Right Commission". Human Right Commission.
  3. ^ "Before Human Rights Council representatives: official Human Rights Commission promotes formalities without making Saudi Arabia effectively cease its ongoing violations". European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights.
  4. ^ a b "Human Rights Commission Regulation - Saudi Arabia".
  5. ^ "Human Rights Commission Board -The Board Members". Human Rights Commission.
  6. ^ "The Law of the Council of Ministers". Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 12 June 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  7. ^ "Saudi Human Rights Commission to modernize, be granted more powers, say sources". Arab News. 31 August 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  8. ^ Gerntholtz, Liesl (19 January 2010). "Letter to Canadian Embassy in Riyadh". Human Rights Watch.
  9. ^ Reporter, W. J. N. (3 November 2016). "Canadian meeting with Saudi human rights commission draws criticism". World Justice News.
  10. ^ "Saudi Arabia must immediately free women human rights defenders held in crackdown, say UN experts". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 27 June 2018. Archived from the original on 28 October 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  11. ^ Dahan, Nadine (28 June 2018). "Saudi women's rights activist arrested as long-time driving ban lifted". Middle East Eye. Archived from the original on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  12. ^ Rashad, Marwa; Kalin, Stephen; Kasolowsky, Raissa (20 June 2018). "Saudi Arabia arrests more women's rights activists: HRW". Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Saudi rights commission interviews detainees over alleged torture". Al Jazeera English. 18 December 2018. Archived from the original on 14 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  14. ^ Nabbout, Mariam (13 November 2019). "Saudi Arabia to take action against people who 'sell' domestic workers". StepFeed.
  15. ^ ALQST’s (Free) Advice To The Saudi Human Rights Commission: Defend Human Rights, Not The Saudi Authorities