Saudi Arabia: Trial of woman human rights defender Israa Al-Ghomgham postponed, as concern for her well-being mounts
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received reports that the trial of woman human rights defender Israa Al-Ghomgham did not take place as expected on 13 January 2019. It was postponed to an indefinite date, which will be publicised next week. GCHR is seriously concerned for her well-being and repeats calls for her to be freed as she is being held for peaceful protests in violation of her right to freedom of expression.
The reason given for the postponement was that the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) is being restructured, with a new head of Court, Deputy and most likely new Judges. The SCC was created in 2008 to deal with terrorism cases. GCHR welcomes the news and calls for Saudi Arabia to end the use of the SCC to target human rights defenders and other activists.
Al-Ghomgham, who wasn’t in court, remains in the General Intelligence Prison in Al-Dhamam, where she has been held since her arrest on 06 December 2015. She should be transferred to a general prison. Her health is suffering as a result of poor treatment and the pressure she is facing. Her family has had limited access to her, leading to increased concern for her well-being.
The case has generated a lot of interest internationally because the Public Prosecutor has called for Al-Ghomgham’s execution by beheading, making her potentially the first woman to be executed for her activism in the country. Al-Ghomgham and her husband, activist Mousa Al-Hashim were arrested on 06 December 2015, after the security forced raided their house. The two participated in peaceful protests in Al-Qatif that took place as demonstrations spread across the Middle East during the so-called Arab Spring beginning in 2011, and were met with a harsh response. She openly called for the release of human rights defenders and expressed her opinions peacefully on social media. See more details about the charges at: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1994
GCHR calls on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Israa Al-Ghomgham, Mousa Al-Hashim and all peaceful protestors and human rights defenders, including women’s rights defenders;
- While she is in custody, transfer Israa Al-Ghomgham out of the General Intelligence Prison to a general prison for women, provide proper care to maintain her health, and allow her full access to her family;
- Drop all charges against those arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and failing that, follow international standards of law, including ensuring that the penalties are proportionate and the death sentence is not implemented, particularly in the cases of any human rights defenders; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, including women’s rights defenders, are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisal.