Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair transferred to faraway prison
On 4 February 2015, the authorities transferred prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair from Malaz prison to Al-Ha'ir rehabilitation prison, located in the city of Riyadh. The move from his home city of Jeddah came without warning. This is the sixth time that Abu Al-Khair has been transferred to a new prison and it’s believed that his refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the trial court is the reason behind his new transfer.
On 12 January 2015, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held an appeals session in which it sentenced Abuk Al-Khair to serve 15 years in prison. He was previously sentenced to 15 years in prison, with five years suspended, but the court removed the suspension and ordered the full sentence to be served.
It’s worth mentioning that Abu Al-Khair explained in a letter he delivered to the Court on 26 June 2014 that he does not recognise the legitimacy of this court. He continues to maintain this position. The jurisdiction of the Specialised Criminal Court is to deal with terrorism-related cases, but it is increasingly being used to target human rights defenders.
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Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a prominent human rights lawyer who founded, and is Director of, the NGO Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA). He was awarded the Olof Palme Prize for human rights 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.”
The Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) express our utmost concern over the continued targeting of Waleed Abu Al-Khair which they believe is solely a reaction to his peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of citizens’ rights in Saudi Arabia.
The MHRSA and GCHR urge the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
- Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Waleed Abu Al-Khair while he remains in detention, preferably in a prison close to his family;
- Ensure that he receives the medical attention and special diet he requires and ensure that his wife is allowed to visit him;
- 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 MHRSA and the GCHR respectfully remind 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 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, threat, 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.”