Saudi Arabia: Call for freedom for Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of prominent human rights defender Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, who has been forcibly disappeared by Saudi authorities for more than three months. We call for a strong international response against the authorities' refusal to disclose any reliable information confirming the whereabouts of Dr. Al-Qahtani. Please take action to #FreeAlQahtani!

On 23 January 2023, Dr. Al-Qahtani’s wife, human rights defender Maha Al-Qahtani, tweeted: "Today my husband has completed three months of enforced disappearance, and this is a violation of human rights. Where is Dr. Mohammed Fahd Al-Qahtani?" She directed her tweet to various parties, including King Salman bin Abdulaziz, King of Saudi Arabia.

The last time his family heard from him was on 24 October 2022, when he called from Al-Ha’ir Reformatory Prison in Riyadh. He was due for release on 22 November 2022 after serving a 10-year prison sentence on charges relating to his peaceful human rights work, including co-founding the Association for Civil and Political Rights in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA).

The contact between Dr. Al-Qahtani and his family has been completely cut off, at a time when reliable local sources confirmed that he was not seen in ward (8A) within Al-Ha’ir Reformatory Prison in Riyadh, where he is held.

Maha Al-Qahtani had filed a complaint on 10 October 2022 with the prison director about her husband being repeatedly assaulted by inmates suffering from mental illnesses who are in the same ward (8a). There are concerns that this complaint may be one of the reasons why he is currently targeted.

Repeated appeals by GCHR and partners have previously called for the release of Dr. Al-Qahtani, who won the Right Livelihood Award in 2018 for his commitment to promoting human rights and advancing democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia.

On 31 January 2023, ALQST for Human Rights is calling for supporters to join a twitterstorm to help #FreeAlQahtani on the 100th day of his enforced disappearance.

Take Action now!

On 9 November 2022, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor said she was "increasingly concerned for the health, and life" of Dr. Al-Qahtani. GCHR welcomes her appeal and calls on all relevant UN Special Rapporteurs and governments with influence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to take action to ensure that the Saudi authorities inform his family of his current whereabouts, and release him immediately and unconditionally.

Join the twitterstorm on 31 January 2023 and call on the Saudi authorities to #FreeAlQahtani.

GCHR calls on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, all other members of the ACPRA and all prisoners of conscience;
  2. While he is in custody, abide by the UN Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules), and provide proper care to maintain his health, and allow him full access to his family;
  3. Allow prisoners to file complaints for abuse in prison and ensure accountability for those who attack them; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals.