Saudi Arabia: A human rights defender threatened and another released
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is concerned that government-backed twitter accounts in Saudi Arabia are being used to threaten human rights defenders and curtail freedom of expression. Human rights defenders are at great risk of being arrested and harmed, and many remain in prison on fabricated charges. While welcoming the release of Essam Koshak, GCHR calls for the release of all detained human rights defenders and activists.
On 19 January 2021, human rights defender, Areej Al-Sadhan sent out a tweet on her Twitter account stating, “Saudi government backed accounts keep threatening my activism and saying that asking about my brother #Abdulrahman will hurt him!” She continued, “Is this a threat that they will continue disappearing him? Torturing him? Or worse?”
A user replied to her tweet, saying, “This cheap method will not benefit your brother.”
Al-Sadhan informed GCHR that, “These threats continue every time I write a tweet in which I talk about the enforced disappearance and torture that takes place in Saudi prisons, and one of its victims is my brother Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan.” She confirmed that the threats in recent times have taken a serious and dangerous turn, manifested in targeting members of her family, especially her brother. He is presumed to be in Al-Ha'ir prison without having been brought to trial, although his family has had very little contact with him, or news about his circumstances.
On 06 January 2021, Al-Sadhan published the following tweet, “Humans in the Greater Saudi Arabia are enslaved without rights Saudi Arabia = slavery.”
A Twitter user commented on the same day in a tweet saying, “Your tweets have exposed the thoughts of your other family members. We are in a place, and possibly time, other than where you are now - a little bit of rationality.”
On 17 January 2021, Al-Sadhan published the following tweet, “Nobody seated [at their computer] uses arm twisting and threatening except you. The simplest right for the oppressed is to complain about the injustice that is happening! And I swore to God then, and I swear to God again, I will not be silent, even if I am a corpse.”
One user commented, “Try for God’s sake to rush to the topic of your corpse.”
On 12 March 2018, plainclothes members of the General Directorate of Investigation in Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested Internet activist Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan without an official judicial warrant or providing any reason for the arrest. He was arrested at the main offices of the Saudi Red Crescent Society in the capital, Riyadh, where he worked as an aid worker. For detailed information about his case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2466
In a piece of good news, GCHR received reports confirming the recent release of human rights defender Essam Koshak after he completed a four-year prison sentence.
On 27 February 2018, Koshak was sentenced by the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) to four years in prison followed by another four years of travel ban upon his release. He was accused of inciting public opinion, and of supporting the hashtag to end the guardian system for women. He was first arrested on 08 January 2017, after being summoned by the Criminal Investigation Department in Mecca.
GCHR calls on the Saudi authorities to:
- Immediately release Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan and all detained human rights defenders, activists and prisoners of conscience, without any conditions;
- While people are detained, allow them to be in regular contact with their families and ensure they are afforded all the rights and privileges accorded to prisoners under international and Saudi law;
- Respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression online and offline, and protect the civil and human rights of all citizens without exception; and
- Ensure that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able, in all circumstances, to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and without any restrictions, including judicial harassment.