Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair beaten in prison


On 18 April 2015, prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair was beaten by another prisoner at Al-Ha'ir prison in Riyadh. Also, he was subjected to threats in addition to verbal insults and obscenities by the same prisoner. It is believed that the prisoner was encouraged to carry out the beating by the prison administration. On the other hand, reports confirmed that a group of soldiers led by one of the officers threw his personal belonging on the ground allegedly looking for forbidden materials, but they found nothing.

Abu Al-Khair submitted a formal complaint to the prison administration alleging harassment directed at him, but his complaint was not considered. Reports suggested that the harassment and ill-treatment of Abu Al-Khair comes after he objected to the violation of the rights of prisoners by the prison administration itself.

On 4 February 2015, the authorities transferred Abu Al-Khair from Malaz prison in Jeddah to Al-Ha'ir rehabilitation prison, located in the city of Riyadh. The move from his home city came without warning. This was 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, in addition to not giving an apology to the court, were the reasons behind his recent transfer.

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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 grave concern at the continuing harassment and mistreatment of Waleed Abu Al-Khair and believe that his situation violates the provisions of the United Nations “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.” 

The MHRSA and GCHR urge the authorities in Saudi Arabia to: 

  1. Stop the series of harassment and ill-treatment suffered by Waleed Abu Al-Khair while in prison;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally release Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
  3. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
  4. Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Waleed Abu Al-Khair while he remains in detention and immediately transfer him to a prison close to his family; and
  5. 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.”