Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Mohammed Al-Otaibi held incommunicado amid lengthy investigation


The Gulf Centre for human Rights (GCHR) has received reports confirming that human rights defender Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi is being held incommunicado and subjected to a lengthy investigation. He will appear before the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh on 12 July 2017.

Al-Otaibi is held in the Intelligence Prison in the city of Al-Damam. He has not been given access to his family or a layer.

At dawn, on 28 May 2017, Al-Otaibi was forcibly deported from Qatar to Saudi Arabia after he was arrested on 24 May while on his way to Norway. The Norwegian government had exceptionally agreed to provide him and his wife with two Norwegian travel documents and grant him refugee status as soon as he arrived, after he requested international support following his departure from Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

Al-Otaibi was forced to leave Saudi Arabia, and arrived in Qatar on 30 March 2017, after his case was referred on 08 December 2016 to the Specialised Criminal Court, which was set up to deal with terrorism-related cases but is often used to try human rights defenders and other activists.  Many charges were directed against him including working in an unlicensed society, signing and publishing statements, and practicing human rights activities. For further information on his case, please see:

Al-Otaibi, 49, began his human rights work in Saudi Arabia in1996. He participated in several online forums and discussions between 1999 and 2016. He also signed a number of statements demanding the protection of civil and human rights of citizens, the release of prisoners of conscience and reform between 2006 and 2015.

GCHR strongly deplores the Qatari authorities' deportation of Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi, and also expresses its condemnation of his arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia, which is solely related to his peaceful human rights activities.

GCHR calls upon the Saudi government and other governments with influence in the region in addition to international mechanisms such as the UN, to:

  1. Provide full protection to human rights defender Mohammed Al-Otaibi in Saudi Arabia and allow him to travel to Norway, where he has been given the right to stay; 
  2. End his trial and revoke all the charges directed against him as they are solely related to his peaceful human rights activities; 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.