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- OHCHR, the Human Rights Council and the Gulf Countries: An Analysis of actions undertaken since 2011
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Written by HRDs and Journalists
Saudi Arabia- The authorities continue their ongoing war on human rights defenders through imprisonment and judicial harassment
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights has received confirmed information concerning the continuation of the Saudi authorities in its war against human rights defenders through imprisonment and on-going judicial harassment. The detention of human rights lawyer Issa Al Marzoq Al-Nukhaifi has been extended for two more weeks and the politicized judiciary continues in the trials of human rights defenders Dr Mohammed Fahd Al-Qahtani, Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid, Mikhlif Al-Shammari and Waleed Abu AlKhair, who face unfounded accusations in an attempt to obstruct their work in the field of human rights, and to silence their call for reform and respect for human rights. According to other reliable reports, detained human rights defender Mohammed Saleh Al-Bajady has started a hunger strike for the second time to protest his ill-treatment and isolation from what is going on in the outside world.
Issa Al Marzoq Al-Nukhaifi
On 20 September 2012, the detention period of prominent human rights lawyer and Editor-in-Chief of electronic newspaper Al-Waqa, Issa Al Marzoq Al-Nukhaifi was extended for another two weeks, after he was arrested by elements of the Criminal Investigation at Al-Azizia Police station in Mecca on 13 September 2012. He had voluntarily gone to this station after he received a summons and was detained in “Al-Mowahad” prison in the same city. In a recording published by Al-Nukhaifi on the web - Please see the link recording here - explained the reason for his arrest as "due to my disclosure of corruption in Gizan city led by the prince deputy, Abdullah Al-Swaid and mafia in the city who issued an arrest warrant against me sent to the criminal investigation to arrest me in province of Al-Aridah."
He was interrogated on 15 September 2012 in the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in Mecca where they charged him with lack of good citizenship due to his online publications on social media networks Facebook and Twitter. Because of these writings, he was interrogated by the Honor and Ethics Authority at the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in Mecca who refused to release him on bail until the interrogation is complete. No confirmed date has been scheduled for his first court hearing.
Detained human rights defender and co-founder member of the Association for Civil and Political Rights in Saudi Arabia (HASM) Mohammed Saleh Al-Bajadi began a hunger strike for the second time on 19 September 2012 in protest against his ill-treatment and isolation in addition to his fellow prisoners from the outside world. According to credible reports, Al-Bajadi is continuing his hunger strike and as a result he has been moved to solitary confinement.
Dr Mohammed Fahd Al-Qahtani and Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid
On 8 September 2012, the third session of the trial of human rights defenders and the co-founder members of the Association for Civil and Political Rights in Saudi Arabia (HASM) Dr. Mohammed Fahad Al-Qahtani and Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid was held at the Criminal Court in Riyadh. The defendants and their lawyers pulled out of the court after the judge Hammad Omar decided that the hearing should be held in private and did not give an undertaking that the next hearing will be held in public. It is expected that next week a date for the next hearing will be declared. A legal observer of the trial who cannot be named for his own safety, said that "the trial is politically motivated; the Saudi government is annoyed by human rights activists, especially Dr. Mohammed Fahad Al-Qahtani and Dr. Abdullah al-Hamid, and they want their arrest but arbitrary detention provokes the media and international human rights organizations, and as such the judiciary has been used to target them under the pretext of committing alleged irregularities. The court allowed a semi-public hearing, but when the activists used the trial to reveal the facts and gross violations of human rights and call victims of arbitrary detention and torture as witnesses, the hearing was transferred to a secret session which refused by activists because this disturbs the principles of justice."
It is expected that the Special Criminal Court in Jeddah will hold a hearing on 7 November 2012 to read the verdict in the case related to the writer and human rights defender, Mikhlif Al-Shammari, after seven secret sessions of the proceedings were completed. Al-Shammari was accused at the very beginning of the case of the fabricated charge of "annoying others" which turned into a total of eighteen alleged charges included in the indictment submitted by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution, such as harming the reputation of the Kingdom, communicating with suspicious organizations, stirring up international and local public opinion, and appearing on foreign channels. This trial has been described by one eminent Jurists as "a silly trial in every sense of the word."
Waleed Abu AlKhair
The trial of human rights lawyer Waleed Abu AlKhair, which began its first hearing on 4 June, 2012 is still on-going, with a series of alleged charges against the defender that include contempt of the judiciary, accusing a judge of corruption, and trying to discredit the Kingdom by giving misleading information to foreign human rights organizations. The next hearing is scheduled for 13 November 2012 during which the Prosecutor will respond to the defense report presented by human rights lawyer Waleed Abu AlKhair, who stated that "they are trying to make the trial perfectly legal but the charges are politically motivated and they prevent me from traveling on the back of the case which is arbitrary and illegal."
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights expresses deep concern about the targeting, imprisonment, and judicial harassment of human rights defenders, Issa Al Marzoq Al-Nukhaifi, Mohammed Saleh Al-Bajadi, Dr Mohammed Fahd Al-Qahtani, Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid, Mukhlif Al-Shammarim, and Waleed Abu AlKhair, who face unfounded accusations in an attempt to disrupt their peaceful and legitimate activities in the field of human rights, and to silence their demands for social justice and reform. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights further expresses its concern at the expansion of the use of a politicized judiciary in Saudi Arabia in order to target human rights defenders.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
1. To release human rights defenders Issa Al Marzoq Al-Nukhaifi, Mohammed Saleh Al-Bajadi and immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against them as they are targeted only because of their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities;
2. Immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against human rights defenders Dr Mohammed Fahd Al-Qahtani, Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid, Mikhlif Al-Shammari and Waleed Abu AlKhair as the GCHR believes that they are solely related to their legitimate human rights work;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that 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 1 “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” and to Article 12 (1) and (2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) 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.”
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.