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Saudi Arabia: One human rights defender released while another is still in prison

2017-02-08

According to information received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), a human rights defender has been released in Saudi Arabia after a month in prison, while another who was arrested at the same time in a separate case is still in prison facing an ongoing interrogation.

On 01 February 2017, human rights defender Ahmed Al-Mshikhs, co-founder of Al-Adalah Centre for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, was released from prison on bail. No charges were brought against him. However, he could face trial any time in the future as evidenced by cases in the past with other activists who faced trial years after their release from detention.

On 05 January 2017, Al-Mshikhs was summoned by the Criminal Investigation Department in Al-Qatif. On arrival, he was arrested and detained in Al-Qatif police prison. On 08 January 2017, he was transferred to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in Al-Dammam. He was held first at Al-Dammam general prison and then transferred to Al-Qatif police prison, from which he was released. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1466

In a separate case, human rights defender Essam Koshak is still in detention at Mecca general prison since his arrest in January. He faces a series of interrogations by the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in Mecca focused on what he has published on twitter. No charges were brought against him and also he has no proper access to his family of lawyer.

On 08 January 2017, the Criminal Investigation Department in Mecca summoned Koshak. On arrival he was arrested and detained in Al-Mansour police station and ordered to appear before the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in Mecca the next day. On 09 January 2017, his detention was extended and then he was transferred to Mecca general prison.

While GCHR welcomes the release of human rights defender Ahmed Al-Mshikhs, it believes that he and human rights defender Essam Koshak are targeted solely due to exercising their legitimate and peaceful right to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression and conducting their work in the field of human rights.

GCHR urges the Saudi Arabian authorities to:

  1. Release Essam Koshak immediately and without any conditions;
  2. Stop all types of harassment against Essam Koshak and Ahmad Al-Mshikhs in order to ensure that they are able to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression and to post comments online and in other public domains without fear of reprisals; and
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) which states that: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.