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Saudi Arabia: Authorities forced blogger and human rights defender Mikhlif Al-Shammari to stops tweeting

2014-09-24

As part of the ongoing systematic targeting by the Saudi government of human rights defenders and online activists, On 22 September 2014, blogger and human rights defender Mikhlif Al-Shammari was summoned to the General Intelligence Directorate in Al-Khobar city where he was informed of the Interior Ministry’s order to shut down his Twitter account (@Mikhlif) immediately. According to reports received by the GCHR, he was forced to sign a pledge stating that he will shut down his Twitter account within 48 hours.

On 3 July 2014, the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal in Riyadh upheld a verdict against Al-Shammari of a five-year prison sentence, a ten-year travel ban to commence on completion of his sentence, and a ban on writing articles, accessing the Internet and appearing in the media. 

The sentence related to eight charges including attempting to discredit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of internal and external public opinion, insulting clergy and accusing state officials of dishonesty and “producing and sending via the Internet what would prejudice public order.” He remains at risk of arrest at any moment.

Sheikh Mikhlif Al-Shammari is a writer and prominent advocate of human rights who champions reform and democratic change in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested many times in recent years. For more information kindly see the following two links:

http://gc4hr.org/news/view/601

http://gc4hr.org/news/view/562

The GCHR expresses serious concern at the ongoing targeting of Mikhlif Al-Shammari and views it as being solely related to the legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The GCHR urges the Saudi Arabian authorities to:

  1. Revoke the sentence of  five years in prison and a ten-year travel ban against Mikhlif Al-Shammari and immediately stop any form of harassment against him;
  2. Guarantee that Mikhlif Al-Shammari is able to exercise his right to freedom of opinion and expression and to post comments online and in other public domains without fear of reprisals;
  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. 

The 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.