Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Fawzan Al-Harbi imprisoned for ten years

20.11.14

On 19 November 2014, human rights defender Fawzan Al-Harbi was sentenced to ten years in prison followed by a ten-year travel ban by the Partial Court in Riyadh. He was immediately taken into custody again following the sentencing, having been jailed previously for the first half of this year on charges related to his work as a founding member of the Civil and Political Rights Association in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA).

On 25 June 2014, the Partial Court in Riyadh had sentenced Al-Harbi to seven years in prison, with six years suspended, and a travel ban of equal duration. He appealed the verdict. He had previously been arbitrarily detained since his arrest was ordered, without basis, on 26 December 2013 until his release on 24 June 2014.

The charges brought against him including participating in the establishment of an unlicensed organisation (ACPRA), "inciting disobedience to the ruler by calling for demonstrations," and "accusing the judiciary of being incapable of delivering justice."

Al-Harbi had been summoned to appear before the Partial Court in Riyadh on 17 November. When he attended the court on 19 November, he was informed that a response from the Court of Appeal had been received, which included two observations, the first demanding a tougher prison sentence, and the second cancelling the previous conditional stay of his imprisonment sentence. The General Prosecutor had demanded during the hearing that Al-Harbi again be imprisoned for publishing both the verdict issued against him, as well as the list of his objections made to the court. Reports confirmed that the presiding Judge Omar Al-Sahan had agreed to the two observations made by the Court of Appeal and issued the new verdict.

The Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) deplore the new apparently arbitrary verdict on Fawzan Al-Harbi, which we believe is solely related to his peaceful and legitimate activities in the field of human rights. Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and GCHR believe that the Saudi government follows a systematic policy that includes efforts to totally eliminate the ACPRA in Saudi Arabia as well as to prevent human rights defenders from conducting their legitimate, peaceful activities.

The Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and GCHR urge the authorities in Saudi Arabia to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Fawzan Al-Harbi and drop all charges against him;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Fawzan Al-Harbi;
  3. 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 Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and GCHR respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised 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.