UN concerned about the continued detention and conviction of 20 human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: 25 July 2021
United Nations human rights experts have expressed their concerns to Saudi authorities about the continued arrest, detention and conviction of 20 human rights defenders in the Kingdom, noting that the main reason for their detention is their work to promote and defend human rights in the Kingdom.
Concerns about the implementation of the Saudi anti-terror law:
In a UN memorandum sent to the Saudi authorities on May 20, 2020, to which a response has not yet been provided, the experts discussed the details of the arrest, charges and violations against 20 human rights defenders in the Kingdom.
The experts reiterated their concern about the Law on Combating Terrorism Crimes and its Financing applied in Saudi Arabia, which may negatively affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Kingdom, and could perpetuate the worrying trend already identified by the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, of increasingly impacting freedoms of opinion and expression, the prohibition of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, the right to a fair trial and due process guarantees.
Arrest and conviction inconsistent with international law:
In their note, the experts explained that the arrest and sentencing of these human rights defenders is incompatible with international human rights law, amid concern that the cases of these human rights defenders reveal what appears to be a pattern of restrictions on opposing freedom of expression and debate in Saudi Arabia, where critical or opposing opinions are described as terrorism.
The experts also expressed deep concern regarding allegations of torture and other human rights violations that some of them allegedly faced, as well as allegations of violations of fair trial standards during the trials of these individuals.
The criminalization of activists has a chilling effect:
The experts noted that the criminalization of human rights defenders in retaliation for their legitimate and peaceful efforts to defend the rights of others in Saudi Arabia relates not only to the detrimental impact on the lives of these individuals and their families, but to the horrific impact it is having on the country’s civic space, amid concerns that such approach aims to dissuade others from exercising their fundamental freedoms, and defend the right of others to do so as well.
The memorandum dealt with the case of each of the human rights defenders: Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi, Abdullah Hamid Al-Hamid, Muhammad Saleh Al-Bajadi, Abdul Karim Youssef Al-Khidr, Walid Abu Al-Khair, Fawzan Al-Harbi, Issa Al-Hamid, Fadel Al-Manasif, Raif Badawi, Issa Al-Nukhaifi, Abdul Al-Rahman Al-Hamid, and Omar Muhammad Al-Said.
Women human rights defenders: Nouf Abdel Aziz, Nassima Al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Iman Al-Nafjan, and Hatoon Al-Fassi.
The memorandum also addressed, for the first time, allegations related to human rights defenders Abdul Rahman Al-Sadhan, Muhannad Al-Muhaimid, and Muhammad Al-Rabiah.