Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia- Human rights defender Raef Badawi at risk of execution on charges of apostasy
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received information that human rights defender Raef Badawi is at risk of execution. Raef Badawi is co-founder and editor of the Liberal Saudi Network, which he set up with other human rights activists including the well-known activist Suad Al – Shammari. The Liberal Saudi Network is a website and on-line forum created to foster political and social debate in Saudi Arabia.
On 17 December 2012, Raef Badawi appeared before the district court in Jeddah charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience”. However, it is not clear what words or activities provoked the prosecution. It is reported that during the hearing the Judge prevented Raef Badawi’s lawyer from representing him in court. The Judge transferred the case to the higher Public Court on a charge of apostasy (renunciation of a religious faith), which carries with it a penalty of death. It is reported that the Judge who presided over the first five sessions of the trial was replaced without explanation by another judge for the 17 December 2012 hearing.
On 22 December 2012, the General Court in Jeddah decided to proceed with the apostasy charges, a decision that puts Raef Badawi under a real danger. This shows once again the continued use of the most politicized judiciary by authorities to target human rights defenders.
Raef Badawi was arrested in June 2012 in Jeddah following an announcement by the Liberal Saudi Network for 7 May to be a "day of liberalism" in Saudi Arabia. A conference, which was to be held in Jeddah for the occasion, was cancelled after the organisers said they had been "advised" by authorities not to proceed with the event. The GCHR believes that his arrest and detention are directly related to the exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
The GCHR is extremely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defender Raef Badawi given that he now risks facing the death penalty under the new charge of apostasy. The GCHR believes that his arrest, detention and the charges against him are directly related to his peaceful and legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of expression and opinion.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Raef Badawi;
2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Raef Badawi;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in KSA are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
Please write immediately in English or in Arabic:
• To express your concern about the continued detention of human rights defender Raef Badawi and to call for his immediate release;
• To urge the authorities in the Saudi Arabia to immediately stop the targeting of human rights defenders.
Please Send Appeals now TO:
King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax:+966 1 403 3125
Crown Prince and Minister of Defence & Aviation
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin
Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of Defence and Aviation,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabi
Fax: +966 1 401 1336