Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Blogger and human rights defender Mikhlif Al-Shammari sentenced to two years in prison and 200 lashes
On 3 November 2014, the Specialised Criminal Court in Al-Khobar city sentenced blogger and human rights defender Mikhlif Al-Shammari to two years in prison in addition to 200 lashes. The General Prosecutor reportedly did not attend the hearing and the judge who presided over the hearing, Khalid Al-Ghamdi, acted on his behalf.
The court convicted Al-Shammari on the following charges:
1. Organizing a dinner on 2 March 2012 after his release from prison to which he invited reformers allegedly without a permit although Al-Shammari says he had obtained a special permit from the Deputy Minister of the Interior at the time, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz.
2. Visiting Sheikh Abdulkarim Alhubail in Tarot of Al-Qatif region.
3. Consoling a family whose son was killed in Al-Qatif demonstrations.
4. Stirring up public opinion for reminding people of the importance of "co-existence between the different sects."
Sheikh Mikhlif Al-Shammari is a writer and prominent advocate of human rights who champions reform and democratic change in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested many times in recent years, including an arrest on 15 July 2010 on a charge of “annoying others”. He was released on bail on 24 February 2012. Then on 3 July 2014, the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal in Riyadh upheld a verdict against Al-Shammari of a five-year prison sentence, a ten-year travel ban to commence on completion of his sentence, and a ban on writing articles, accessing the Internet and appearing in the media. He is currently not detained. For more information see: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/760
The Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern at the sentence of two years imprisonment plus 200 lashes and the ongoing targeting of Mikhlif Al-Shammari, and views it as being solely related to the legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and GCHR urge the Saudi Arabian authorities to:
- Revoke the sentence of two years in prison and 200 lashes against Mikhlif Al-Shammari and immediately stop any form of harassment against him;
- Guarantee that Mikhlif Al-Shammari is able to exercise his right to freedom of opinion and expression and to post comments online and in other public domains without fear of reprisals;
- 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) which states that: “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.”