Saudi Arabia: Human rights lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair transferred to the hospital after being on hunger strike for a month

10.01.20

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received reports that human rights lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair was transferred from prison to the hospital after his health deteriorated following lengthy hunger strikes.

On 09 January 2020, Abu Al-Khair was transferred to King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah after his health deteriorated dramatically. He had started a hunger strike on 11 December 2019 to protest against the ill-treatment to which he was being subjected in Dhaban Prison, near Jeddah. He was transferred to solitary confinement and banned from having any books. Prior to that, Abu Al-Khair undertook another hunger strike that started on 27 November 2019 and ended on 10 December 2019, but he continued his hunger strike the next day after the authorities did not respond to his demands and kept him in an isolation cell.

Abu Al-Khair is a prominent human rights lawyer who established the Human Rights Observatory in Saudi Arabia, a non-governmental organisation of which he was director. He received several awards in the field of human rights, including the Olof Palme Award in 2012 and the Right Livelihood Award in 2018.

On 15 April 2014, he was imprisoned on fabricated charges after an unfair trial that did not follow international standards of due process. On 06 July 2014, the Specialised Criminal Court upheld his sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment and a travel ban for an equal period after his release, along with a fine of 200,000 Saudi Riyals (approx. 48,000 Euros) on charges related to his peaceful activities in the field of human rights.

GCHR expresses its full solidarity with prominent human rights lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair and calls on the Saudi authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to overturn his sentence. In addition, the Saudi authorities should release all detained human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience, and provide the required protection to all citizens who work in the human rights field, while respecting public freedoms, including freedom of opinion and expression, without exceptions.