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Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Samar Badawi banned from travel prior to EU meeting

2014-12-03

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is deeply concerned following the travel ban that has been imposed on human rights defender Samar Badawi, who works on defending people’s rights in Saudi Arabia, in particular the rights of prisoners of conscience.

On 2 December 2014, Badawi was informed by staff in the Passport Office at King Abdulaziz International Airport that she is not allowed to travel abroad anymore by an order from the Ministry of Interior, without any reason given or any prior investigations.

She was on her way to get a flight to participate in the 16th European Union (EU) NGOs Forum on Human Rights being held on 4 and 5 December in Brussels, Belgium. According to the EU, “The EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights is an annual conference that provides a venue for direct interaction and in depth discussion between representatives of global civil society and the EU institutions, EU Member States and international organisations on various topics related to the promotion and protection of human rights.” The theme of this year's Forum is "Freedoms of expression on line and offline".

Reports confirm that the travel ban was ordered by the Ministry of Interior following her speech in September about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Badawi appeared before the Council and called for the release of her husband, prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this year. To watch Badawi’s presentation at the UN HRC (in Arabic), see the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVo3L-UdgVs

The GCHR believes that this travel ban was imposed on Samar Badawi as a result of her human rights activities, in particular her work to defend freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, and is a blatant attempt to prevent her from carrying out advocacy with international bodies such as the EU or the UN.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

1. Ensure that Samar Badawi is free to travel to and from Saudi Arabia without illegitimate interference by authorities;

2. 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 Recognised 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 5 (c): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations” and to Article 6 (c): “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.”