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Saudi Arabia

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    January 30, 2018

    By Kareem Chehayeb, Amnesty International's Gulf researcher

    At the World Economic Forum at Davos this week, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced ambitious new plans for a “fundamental transformation” of the country. 

    “The world is not used to seeing Saudi Arabia moving quickly and boldly,” he told assembled world leaders.

    It was the latest move in Saudi Arabia’s recent PR offensive, which has seen Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promise modernization and lift the notorious ban on women driving. But changes so far have been superficial and serious human rights violations, both at home and abroad, remain major obstacles to meaningful reform in Saudi Arabia. 

    While women drivers and newly legalized cinemas may make headlines, they barely scratch the surface of the reform needed within the country. Human rights violations aren’t sporadic; they are systematic, and Saudi Arabia needs to effect a fundamental structural change if it is serious about progress.

    Here are some key steps that Saudi Arabia needs to take if it wants to fulfil its ambitions: 

    January 25, 2018

    Responding to the sentencing today of two prominent human rights activists Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh to 14 and seven years in prison respectively, Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for the Middle-East at Amnesty International said:

    “The harsh sentencing of Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, who should never have been prosecuted in the first place, confirms our fears that the new leadership of Mohamed Bin Salman is determined to silence civil society and human rights defenders in the Kingdom.

    “The crackdown on members of the human rights community has continued unabated, with almost all the country’s most prominent human rights defenders now behind bars. These actions, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, fly in the face of his recently declared ambitions to modernize the Kingdom.

    “If Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is truly intent on bringing reforms to Saudi Arabia, he must ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders, detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.”

    January 09, 2018

    Amnesty International launches a campaign today to mark the three year anniversary of the public flogging of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi. He received the first 50 out of 1000 lashes on 9 January 2015 for setting up a website focused on social and political debate.

    In the wake of his flogging, which provoked an international outcry, Amnesty International supporters around the world rose up, driving global condemnation of the authorities and demanding the unconditional release of Raif Badawi and all other prisoners of conscience. He has not been flogged again, but is still in prison serving a 10 year sentence.

    “If the Saudi Arabian authorities are truly intent on pushing through reforms and positive changes, they should immediately release Raif Badawi and all prisoners of conscience being held simply for airing their opinions freely,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.

    October 02, 2017

    The Saudi Arabian authorities executed a man today, bringing the total number of people put to death so far in 2017 to 100, with 60 people executed in the past three months alone, said Amnesty International.

    “Since July 2017, the Saudi Arabian government has been on an execution spree with an average of five people put to death per week. This sets the country firmly on track to remain one of the most prolific executioners on the planet,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for Amnesty International in the Middle-East.

    “If the Saudi authorities are truly intent on making reforms, they must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely.”

    Forty percent of the executions carried out so far this year were related to drug-related offences, which do not fall into the category of "most serious crimes". The use of the death penalty for such offences violates international human rights law.

    Unfair trials

    September 26, 2017

    Responding to the Saudi Arabian government’s announcement that women will be allowed to drive, Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

    “It is a testament to the bravery of women activists who have been campaigning for years that the government of Saudi Arabia has finally relented and decided to permit women to drive.

    “This is a long overdue small step in the right direction and we welcome this move if it means all women in Saudi Arabia will finally be able to drive without any restrictions.

    “If by June next year women in Saudi Arabia are driving the streets without fear of arrest, then this will be a cause for celebration. But it is just one step. We also need to see a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices swept away in Saudi Arabia including the guardianship system where every woman has a male guardian, be it their father, brother, husband or son, having authority to make decisions on her behalf.

    September 15, 2017

    In the last week Saudi Arabian authorities have intensified their crackdown on freedom of expression, detaining more than 20 prominent religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and activists, said Amnesty International.

    “In recent years we cannot recall a week in which so many prominent Saudi Arabian figures have been targeted in such a short space of time,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle East.

    “It is clear that the new leadership under Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman is sending a chilling message: freedom of expression will not be tolerated, we are coming after you.”

    Those arrested include prominent Islamic clerics such as Sheikh Salman al-Awda, an influential religious figure who has over 14 million followers on social media, detained on 9 September. He is known for his calls for reforms and as an advocate for greater respect of human rights within the Islamic Shari’a.

    September 12, 2017

    A young Saudi Arabian Shi’a man who claims he was tortured to “confess” alleged crimes committed when he was 16 years old faces imminent execution, in the latest shocking example of Saudi Arabia’s ruthless clampdown on dissent, said Amnesty International today.

    The family of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, now 21, were yesterday informed that the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence for his alleged role in anti-government protests. He has now exhausted all his appeals and faces execution as soon as King Salman ratifies his sentence, which could happen at any time.

    Al-Hawaj, who was sentenced to death in July 2016 after a grossly unfair trial, denies participating in any of the acts attributed to him.

    “Saudi Arabia’s vicious crackdown on dissent appears to know no bounds. Its latest victim, a child at the time of his alleged crimes, now faces death at the hands of a repressive regime that uses the death penalty as a tool to crush dissent,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.

    August 08, 2017

    On his 17th birthday, Omar al-Qahtani writes about his dad, Mohammad al-Qahtani, a human rights defender and founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), one of Saudi Arabia’s few independent human rights organizations. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for peacefully calling for reforms in the country.

    My name is Omar Al-Qahtani and today I turn 17.

    I have two brothers and two sisters, oldest is Abdullah (20), then Norah (18), than me, then Othman (15), and Layla (4). Then there’s also Harley Davidson (24 weeks), our kitten.

    We are what you would call a regular family, except we are far away from our father, who’s been in prison in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. Thankfully though, we talk to him every day. My father is a really brave man who will never give up on his beliefs. We are all so proud of him.

    My father loves to have fun with us and to enjoy life but he is very serious when it comes to school and work. Before his arrest, life in Saudi Arabia was different: easier, simpler. 

    July 24, 2017
      The Saudi Arabian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the death sentences of 14 men after a grossly unfair mass trial is a worrying reminder of the country’s lethal crackdown on dissent, said Amnesty International today. The men who were found guilty of protest-related crimes now face imminent execution.   “By confirming these sentences Saudi Arabia’s authorities have displayed their ruthless commitment to the use of the death penalty as a weapon to crush dissent and neutralize political opponents,” said Samah Hadid, Director of campaigns for the Middle-East at Amnesty international.   “King Salman’s signature is now all that stands between them and their execution. He must immediately quash these death sentences which are a result of sham court proceedings that brazenly flout international fair trial standards," At least 66 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the start of 2017, including 26 in the past three weeks alone - more than one execution per day.  
    July 12, 2017
      The Saudi Arabian government is employing the death penalty as a political weapon to silence dissent, said Amnesty International, following the execution of four Shi’a men in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on 11 July.  
    July 10, 2017
      The Saudi Arabian authorities must not forcibly return three Sudanese activists to Sudan where there is a real risk they could be imprisoned and face torture and other ill-treatment, said Amnesty International. Elgassim Seed Ahmed, Elwaleed Imam and Alaa Aldin al-Difana were initially arrested by the Saudi Arabian authorities in December 2016. They appear to have been detained at the request of the Sudanese authorities in relation to posts on social media expressing support for civil disobedience protests in Sudan late last year.   There are serious fears that they could be deported at any time.   “Forcibly deporting these three men back to Sudan where they are likely to face unfair trial, torture and other ill-treatment would be a flagrant violation of Saudi Arabia’s international obligations and a cruel demonstration of their utter disdain for international law,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s office in Beirut.   
    July 10, 2017

    A UK court ruling that the government is entitled to continue authorizing arms supplies to Saudi Arabia is a potentially deadly setback to Yemeni civilians, Amnesty International said today.

    The High Court in London dismissed a legal challenge from the NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which claimed that such arms transfers should not take place because of the clear risk that the weapons supplied would be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen’s armed conflict.

    June 17, 2017

    Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was detained on June 17, 2012 and sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam. He was also sentenced to a cruel and inhuman punishment of 1,000 lashes. On January 9, 2015 he received the first 50 of these in a public square in Jeddah.

    #FreeRaif - 5 Years

    10 years in prison. 1000 lashes for writing words of peace. Today marks 5 years since Raif Badawi's arrest, and his children have a message for Saudi Arabia. ACT NOW! Join their demand to #FreeRaif >> http://amn.st/61818mLd3

    Posted by Amnesty International Canada on Saturday, 17 June 2017

    June 16, 2017

    Marking the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Saudi Arabian blogger and prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi, Samah Hadid, Middle-East Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International said:

    “Raif Badawi has already served half of his prison term, but he shouldn’t be locked up in the first place. Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    “Blogging is not a crime. The harsh punishment of Raif Badawi shows the Saudi Arabian authorities’ blatant contempt for freedom of expression and the extent to which they are willing to go to crush all forms of dissent.”

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