Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Two human rights defenders arrested after being sentenced to prison

18.09.17

Saudi authorities have arrested human rights defenders Issa Al-Hamid and Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili, both members of the Civil and Political Rights Association in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA).

Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that Issa Al-Hamid was arrested on 16 September 2017 while Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili was arrested on 17 September 2017. Information from local sources suggests that the arrests are to execute the sentences imposed on them earlier. The arrests are part of the ongoing crackdown which has resulted in the arrest of many Saudi citizens this year, including numerous human rights defenders.

Al-Hamid (pictured above right) is a founding member and former President of the ACPRA in 2014 who was charged with “participating in the establishment of an unlicensed organisation” (namely ACPRA) and “communicating with international organizations in order to harm the image of the state.” As a result of his human rights activities, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on appeal, after first being sentenced to nine years in prison on 24 April 2016 by the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh. The SCC also sentenced him to nine years of travel ban after he served his sentence. Following an appeal, an additional two years was added to his prison sentence on 01 December 2016, and he was fined 100,000 Saudi Riyals (USD$26,665). For more details, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1436

His two brothers, Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid and Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Hamid, are both in prison due to their human rights activities. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1168

Al-Shubaili (pictured above right) is a principal member of ACPRA who participated in the defence team on behalf of many of his fellow members of ACPRA. On 14 August 2017, Al-Shubaili received news that the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal in Riyadh upheld the full preliminary sentence issued against him. To date, this court has ratified all the prison sentences issued against members of ACPRA.

Notably, this appeals court did not hold any hearings in order to reach its conclusion, which reflects the lack of the minimum required international standards for fair trial and due process.

In a hearing held on10 January 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court sentenced Al-Shubaili to eight years in prison, followed by another eight years ban on writing on social media, in addition to a travel ban of eight years to begin after the sentence has been served.

Al-Shubaili was accused of many charges including allegedly publishing a statement calling for demonstrations; accusing judges of dishonesty and human rights violations; and preparing, storing and sending data affecting public order. As well he was sentenced for “participating in an unauthorised association,” namely ACPRA, and his contribution to the drafting of its statements, as well as failing to comply with the judicial decision to dissolve ACPRA. For more information about the case see https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1668

GCHR expresses its strong condemnation of the imprisonment of Issa Al-Hamid and Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili, who GCHR believes are targeted solely for their peaceful and legitimate work in the field of human rights including through their work with the ACPRA.

GCHR calls on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally revoke the sentences against Issa Al-Hamid and Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili and drop all charges against them; and
  2. Immediately release Issa Al-Hamid and Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili, as well as all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia whose detention relates only to the peaceful and legitimate work in the promotion and protection of human rights.

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 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (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): “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.