Saudi Arabia: Appeals court endorses 15-year sentence against human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair



On 15 February 2015, the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal in Riyadh ratified the initial ruling against Waleed Abu Al-Khair. The court, which hears terrorism cases, confirmed the sentence of 15 years in prison, a travel ban of equal duration following imprisonment, and a fine of 200,000 SR (approximately US$53,300).

On 4 February 2015, the authorities transferred Abu Al-Khair from Malaz prison to Al-Ha'ir rehabilitation prison, located in the city of Riyadh. The move from his home city of Jeddah came without warning. This was the sixth time that Abu Al-Khair has been transferred to a new prison and it’s believed that his refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the trial court, in addition to not giving an apology to the court, were the reasons behind his recent transfer.

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Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a prominent human rights lawyer who founded, and is Director of, the NGO Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA). He was awarded the Olof Palme Prize for human rights in 2012 for his “strong, self-sacrificing and sustained struggle to promote respect for human and civil rights for both men and women in Saudi Arabia.”

The Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) express our utmost concern over the endorsement of the sentence against Waleed Abu Al-Khair by the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal as its jurisdiction is to deal with terrorism-related cases and not to be used to target human rights defenders.

The MHRSA and GCHR urge the authorities in Saudi Arabia to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Waleed Abu Al-Khair while he remains in detention and immediately transfer him to a prison close to his family;
  4. Ensure that he receives the medical attention and special diet he requires and ensure that his wife is allowed to visit him;
  5. 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 MHRSA and the GCHR respectfully remind the authorities in Saudi Arabia 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, recognizes 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 12 (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, threat, 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.”