Saudi Arabia: GCHR calls for human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair to be released after eight years in prison


On the eighth anniversary of the imprisonment of human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for his immediate and unconditional release from prison, where he is serving a 15-year sentence in violation of his rights to freedom of expression and association. The human rights lawyer participated in GCHR’s human rights activities at an early stage and his contributions to the human rights community are sorely missed.

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, the Right Livelihood Award in 2018 and the American Bar Association 2019 Human Rights Award.

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 at the time) on charges related to his peaceful activities in the field of human rights.

On 06 February 2020, Abu Al-Khair ended a 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 banned from having any books. He was taken to hospital on 09 January 2020 after his health declined dramatically.  

GCHR expresses its full solidarity with prominent human rights lawyer Waleed 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.