Saudis 'tortured refugees'

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The Independent Online
HUNDREDS of Iraqi refugees who sought shelter in Saudi Arabia after the 1991 Gulf War have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and ill-treated, according to the human rights group Amnesty International, writes Charles Richards.

In a report issued today Amnesty also states that some Iraqis were deliberately killed or forcibly returned to Iraq during the past three years.

The presence of the refugees dates from the last days of the Gulf War when thousands of Iraqi troops surrendered to coalition forces. In late March 1991 these were joined by thousands of other Iraqi nationals who had fled the horrors being perpetrated by the Iraqi authorities as they crushed the uprising in southern Iraq.

The estimated 32,000 refugees - now 23,000 following repatriation or resettlement - were transferred to Saudi Arabia and held in two makeshift camps, Rafha and Artawiyya. In December 1992, Artawiyya camp was closed and its population transferred to Rafha.

Amnesty says that over the past three years it has received numerous reports of human rights violations perpetrated by camp authorities. These included the arbitrary detention of refugees, their torture and ill-treatment (in some cases resulting in death), possible extra-judicial executions and hundreds of forced returns to Iraq, where refugees risk arrest, torture or execution.

The Saudi authorities have stressed that large sums of money have been spent on facilities for the refugees, whom they have dubbed 'welcome guests'.