Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Khalid Al-Omair detained after filing complaint against intelligence officer who tortured him
According to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), human rights defender Khaled Al-Omair had been detained by agents of the General Directorate of Investigation in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Omair filed a complaint with the Saudi Royal Court against one of the officers of the General Directorate of Investigation, who he alleges tortured him during his imprisonment. The torture involved handcuffing his hands and feet, putting him in solitary confinement for nine consecutive days in an empty cell with nothing to sleep on (not even a blanket), and forcing him to stand for long hours during some days.
When Al-Omair followed up the case at the Royal Court, the complaint was referred to the State Security Apparatus for consideration in accordance with the directives of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
On 05 July 2018, Al-Omair went to the General Directorate of Investigation to follow up the complaint who asked him to leave pending investigation of his complaint. On the following day, a group of agents of the General Directorate of Investigation approached him and asked him to go with them to Al-Ha'ir Political Prison to meet with a special committee, which they said was formed to look into his complaint, but which apparently was formed to interrogate him only. He has been not contactable since entering prison.
On 12 April 2017, Al-Omair was finally released the year completing an eight-year sentence. On 06 October 2016, Al-Omair had started a hunger strike which lasted 29 days to protest the failure to release him despite serving the duration of his prison sentence of eight years, as of 05 October 2016. On 03 November 2016, he had been transferred from Al-Ha'ir Political Prison in Riyadh to Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Centre in preparation for his release, which then took five more months to happen.
The case dates back to 27 December 2008, when Al-Omair announced his intention to protest against the blockade and Israeli aggression against Gaza in Palestine. He was arrested on the morning of the following day by security forces before he could start the demonstration. On 15 May 2011, he was sentenced by the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh to eight years in prison, with a travel ban for the same period after the completion of his sentence. The court found him guilty of inciting demonstrations and calling for them via the Internet. He was allegedly tortured and ill-treated since his arrest and prior to his trial.
GCHR expresses grave concern about the continuation of serious violations documented against human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia including the detention of Khalid Al-Omair solely due to his torture complaint against the intelligence officer who tortured him. This in itself constitutes a flagrant violation of all human rights instruments that prohibit torture and affirm the accountability of the perpetrators before a fair and independent judiciary.
GCHR urges the Saudi Arabian authorities to:
- Immediately and without any condition release human rights defender Khalid Al-Omair from prison;
- Open an immediate, independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the torture of Khalid Al-Omair with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Prohibit torture in all Saudi prisons and fulfil the Kingdom's international human rights obligations; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that 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.”