Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia- Authorities continue to target human rights lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is concerned about irregularities in the ongoing trial of human rights lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair, which continued on 9 September 2013 at the Criminal Court in Jeddah. This was the tenth hearing of the trial, which opened on 4 June 2012, and appears to be designed to interfere with his human rights activities.
At the hearing on 9 September, the Public prosecutor handed over to the court a flash memory drive without declaring its contents, in addition to a copy of a statement about the trial of Jeddah reformists and the events of Qatif issued on 5 December 2011 and signed by Abu Al-Khair on behalf of the group, Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA), which he heads. The judge asked him if he had already signed this statement and he confirmed that he had. The statement, signed by 64 human rights defenders, activists and academics, called on authorities to renounce violence and to seek solutions for sectarian, territorial and tribal discrimination in all its forms; and to release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including "forgotten prisoners" as they are called in the statement, referring to those who have been held for more than 16 years without trial.
The charges facing Walid Abu Al-Khair include contempt of the judiciary, accusing a judge of corruption, and an attempt to discredit the Kingdom by giving misleading information to foreign human rights organizations. The next hearing will be held on 29 October 2013.
On 12 September 2013, the human rights defender received a phone call from one of the workers at the Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Counseling and Care which was set up for the rehabilitation of terrorism suspects. He was told during the call that he must attend a hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court in Jeddah, at 10am on 15 September 2013 to face alleged charges that the official did not specify. Abu Al-Khair refused to attend as he was already attending the Criminal Court in Jeddah where he submitted an appeal in a case related to one of his client.
The lawyer did not get any additional information officially about this new trial and told the GCHR that since he was being tried in a "political court with distinction, certainly the charges will be linked to my human rights activity as I was threatened by the investigation."
In addition, then on 24 September 2013, the Criminal Investigation Administration in Jeddah summoned Abu Al-Khair to appear before its office. He went there the next day and they told him that he has a hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court in Jeddah, at 8:30am on 6 October 2013. He was not informed about the nature of the hearing or any alleged charges.
In related news, the application for the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia to receive a permit has been frozen by the Interior Ministry following an order from the King of Saudi Arabia himself. The GCHR considers this action part of an on-going trend by the Saudi authorities to criminalize the peaceful and legitimate human rights work by human rights defenders and their organizations in the Kingdom and also to prevent them from defending the rights of citizens and detainees.
The GCHR calls the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
1. Drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair immediately and unconditionally as the GCHR believes the charges are related only to his legitimate human rights work;
2. Enable MHRSA and other human rights organizations to register with the authorities in Saudi Arabia so it can carry out its legitimate and peaceful human rights activities;
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 the authorities in Saudi Arabia 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:
1. To express your concern about the continued targeting of human rights defenders and to call on the Saudi government to meet its international obligations and protect them;
2. To urge the authorities in the Saudi Arabia to immediately release all unjustly detained 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 Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1336