Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Human right lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair missing, presumed arrested
On 15 April 2014, Waleed Au Al-Khair attended the fifth session of the trial of the Special Criminal Court in Riyadh. Since then, there has been no news available as to his whereabouts and it appears that he has been arrested and is currently in detention.
Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a prominent human rights lawyer. He founded, and is Director of, the NGO Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA). He was awarded the human rights Olof Palme Prize in 2012 for his “strong, self-sacrificing and sustained struggle to promote respect for human and civil rights for both men and women in Saudi Arabia.”
On 24 February 2014, the Court of Appeal in Jeddah upheld a three-month sentence against him originally handed down in October 2013. The sentence relates to a petition he and 64 other human rights defenders, activists and academics signed calling 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. (For further information, see previous GCHR appeal dated 25 February 2014 http://gc4hr.org/news/view/591.)
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern for the physical and psychological safety of Waleed Abu Al-Khair since he has gone missing after his Court appearance. The GCHR believes that the sentencing of the human rights defender is solely related to his peaceful and legitimate work in the defence and promotion of human rights in Saudi Arabia.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
- Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
- Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
- 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 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, recognises 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): “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.”