THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN SAUDI ARABIA
In its October 2013 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Saudi Arabia accepted 240 of 348 recommendations made by States – but none focusing on human rights defenders (HRDs). It accepted 7 recommendations on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly, including several calling for the protection of individuals who exercise these rights; and for the definition of laws that enable civil society organisations (CSOs) to work without undue interference.
RISKS FACING HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
- The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reported that Saudi Arabia often violates its UNCAT obligations by subjecting HRDs in detention to ill treatment. HRD Issa Al Marzog Al-Nukhaifi, released April 2016, faced torture and solitary confinement after initiating a hunger strike while in detention.
- In July 2017, four men were executed after being arrested for participating in protests. That same month, the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of 14 men for protest-related activities following a mass trial, which used confessions extracted through torture and ill treatment. They face imminent execution.
- Raif Badawi, founder of the Saudi Liberal Network, was sentenced in 2013 for pro-democracy and pro-secularism online comments. In May 2014, an appeals court changed his sentence from seven years to ten years, increased his lashings from 600 to 1,000, and fined him one million Saudi riyals. The first 50 lashes were carried out in front of a crowd.
- Fadhil al-Manasif was arrested in 2011 for relaying information about protests to human rights groups and social media channels. In April 2014, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) — set up in 2008 to address cases of terrorism and national security—sentenced him to 15 years in prison. His charges were ‘breaking allegiance with the ruler,’ contacting foreign news outlets to harm the reputation of the State & communicating with human rights NGOs.
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