Saudi Arabia: Imprisoned human rights defenders end hunger strikes

13.02.20

Reliable reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that human rights defenders Walid Abu Al-Khair and Khaled Al-Omair have ended their hunger strike after the authorities responded to some of their demands. While welcoming the news, GCHR calls for their immediate and unconditional release, as they are detained solely for their human rights activities and in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and association.

On 06 February 2020, Abu Al-Khair (pictured in the middle) announced that he would end his hunger strike after the authorities transferred him from solitary confinement in a maximum-security cell back to his former cell in Dhahban prison in Jeddah. He began his hunger strike on 11 December 2019 to protest being held in solitary confinement, and was taken to hospital on 09 January 2020 after his health declined.  

On 11 February 2020, Al-Omair (pictured on the left) announced that he was ending his hunger strike in a letter that was leaked from Al-Ha'ir Political Prison and published by ALQST for Human Rights Organisation. In his letter, he said, “I am suspending my hunger strike temporarily, while sticking to my position in firmly refusing to be tried before the Criminal Court specialised in terrorism cases and under the anti-terrorism law and other laws similar to it, I am not a terrorist, I have an opinion and exercised my right to freedom of expression." He began his hunger strike on 22 December 2019.

On 11 December 2019, imprisoned blogger and human rights defender Raif Badawi (pictured on the right) also started a hunger strike with Abu Al-Khair, who was his lawyer and brother-in-law, to protest being kept in solitary confinement in prison, where he is serving a ten-year sentence. Badawi’s family reported on Twitter that he called to tell them he ended his hunger strike in December.

GCHR calls on the Saudi authorities to end the practice of solitary confinement and other ill-treatment for all prisoners of conscience. In addition, the Saudi authorities should release Walid Abu Al-Khair, Khaled Al-Omair, Raif Badawi and all detained human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience, including women’s rights defenders, 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.