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Saudi Arabia

    April 16, 2015

    A letter from Samar Badawi to her imprisoned husband, the Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair. Samar is also the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi.

    Words are not enough for me to express how proud I am of my husband. How deeply proud I am of the man who believed in me and my cause when I was imprisoned. As my lawyer, he defended me and never left me alone to face those who unjustly attempted to impose their patriarchal authority over me just because I am a woman who dared to speak up. Everyone turned their backs on me except for my husband who remained by my side until he had helped achieve justice for my cause.

    He has always been my rock whenever I felt weak, he was my strength and my source of motivation and inspiration.

    April 14, 2015

    Today’s execution of an Indonesian woman with a suspected mental illness is just the latest in the recent macabre spike in Saudi Arabia’s state-sponsored killings, Amnesty International said.

    Saudi Arabian state media reported that Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa was executed this morning in Medina. She was sentenced to death in 1999 after she “confessed” in police custody to killing a woman who had allegedly mistreated her since hiring her as a domestic worker the year before.

    The authorities waited for more than 15 years for the youngest of the victim’s children to reach adulthood to decide whether or not the family would want to pardon Siti Zainab or demand her execution under qisas (retribution).

    “Imposing the death penalty and executing someone with a suspected mental illness smacks of a basic lack of humanity. This practice has been widely condemned on the world stage and Saudi Arabia should take this opportunity to reconsider its stance on the death penalty,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    April 14, 2015

    By Ensaf Haidar, via The Washington Post

    On June 17, 2012, my husband, Raif Badawi, the father of my three children and my best friend, was arrested in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. For nearly three years, as he has languished in prison, my family has been trapped in a nightmare.

    Raif is a man of principle and a respected activist in Saudi Arabia. In 2008, he started a blog where readers could openly discuss politics, religion and other social issues. But in Saudi Arabia, one can pay an unthinkable price simply for blogging. Raif was convicted of insulting Islam and violating the kingdom’s repressive information-technology laws.

    April 13, 2015

    “I was not jailed because I represented myself, but because I defended the oppressed in my country. Don’t forget me. But most importantly do not forget those I was defending.”

    Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights defender and lawyer for imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, is currently serving a 15 year sentence in addition to a fine of 200,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (approximately $67,000 CAD) and a 15-year travel ban. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience detained solely for his peaceful human rights work.

    March 11, 2015

    Saudi Arabia is well on track to far surpass its previous annual execution records, Amnesty International warned after three more men were put to death this morning, bringing the total number of executions in the country to 44 so far this year.

    That is fully four times the number of people executed in the Gulf Kingdom during the same period last year – 11. Public beheading is the most common method of execution.

    “This unprecedented spike in executions constitutes a chilling race to the bottom for a country that is already among the most prolific executioners on the planet,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “If this alarming execution rate continues, Saudi Arabia is well on track to surpass its previous records, putting it out of step with the vast majority of countries around the world that have now rejected the death penalty in law or practice.”

    The three men executed this morning include a Saudi Arabian, a Yemeni and a Syrian national, all for drug-related offences.

    March 05, 2015

    Tomorrow marks eight weeks since the Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flogged the blogger and activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam” and founding an online forum for political debate.

    After his first session of 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January, a doctor advised prison authorities that his wounds had not healed sufficiently for him to undergo the second round of this brutal punishment.

    The following Friday, while a medical committee had advised that Raif Badawi should not be flogged because of high blood pressure, another prison doctor insisted that there was nothing wrong with him and that he should be flogged. Then, for five consecutive weeks the Friday floggings were not carried out for reasons that remain unknown. It is anybody’s guess whether the next part of his sentence will be carried out tomorrow.

    Raif Badawi has made headlines around the world. But his case is just the tip of the iceberg for the Gulf Kingdom’s appalling human rights record. Here are 10 sobering facts from Amnesty International’s research:

    February 23, 2015

    The Honourable Rob Nicholson
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    125 Sussex Drive
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0G2

    February 23, 2015

    Dear Minister Nicholson,

    We are writing this Open Letter with a request that you personally intervene on behalf of Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes, a ten year prison term and other punishments simply because he believes in and has exercised his right to freedom of expression.

    We write further to similar requests we directed to former Minister Baird on 15 January and to Prime Minister Harper on 28 January. We have consistently called for action at the most senior levels of the Canadian government for several reasons.

    * There is a strong Canadian connection to Mr. Badawi’s case, by virtue of the fact that his wife Ensaf Haidar and their three young children have been granted refugee status and permanent residence in Canada and now reside in Sherbrooke, Quebec. 

    February 06, 2015

    Amnesty International fears that most prisoners of conscience will likely be excluded from the royal pardon announced by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on 29 January, according to the Ministry of Interior’s pardon conditions.

    The royal pardon which referred to the conditions of the pardon stipulated in the Ministry of Interior’s official communication dated 27 January, a copy of which Amnesty International has seen, excludes “crimes related to state security” from the pardon. “Crimes related to state security” does not refer to clearly defined or codified articles in Saudi Arabian laws but to vaguely worded list of charges commonly faced by human rights activists and prisoners of conscience both in the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), the country’s infamous security and counter-terror court, and in other criminal courts.

    February 02, 2015

    By Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, in conversation with Dr. Donald Payne, Health Network Coordinator

    January 30, 2015

    Last night’s royal decree offering pardons for Saudi Arabian prisoners convicted on “public rights” charges will only be a step in the right direction if the releases do not carry conditions, Amnesty International said.

    The announcement of the impending pardons came as part of the new King Salman’s latest set of royal decrees, issued at 11:35pm local time on Thursday.

    “It’s a positive move for the Saudi Arabian authorities to consider releasing political prisoners as part of reforms under the new government. But any releases that impose conditions on the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly would be a slap in the face to activists who should not have been imprisoned in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.  

    Yesterday’s royal decree referred to an official communication issued two days earlier stating that it would be up to the Minister of Interior to decide on the extent and conditions of the pardon.

    January 29, 2015

    The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
    Prime Minister of Canada
    80 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A2

    January 28, 2015


    Dear Prime Minister,

    We are writing this Open Letter with an urgent request that you intervene in the case of Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger and human rights defender who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and other penalties and restrictions, simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression.  As you will know, there is a strong Canadian connection to the case because Canada has, very commendably, welcomed his wife Ensaf Haidar and their three young children to this country as refugees.

    January 27, 2015

    Human rights activists from Sherbrooke, Montreal and Ottawa will be holding a rally on Parliament Hill on Thursday 29 January 2015 at 2 p.m. calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene directly with Saudi Arabian authorities to stop the flogging of Raif Badawi set to resume on Friday 30 January, and press for him to be unconditionally freed from prison.

    Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up the Saudi Arabian Liberals website, will be flogged for a second time. Amnesty International believes Raif Badawi is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. His wife Ensaf Haider and their three children have found refuge in Canada living in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

    January 23, 2015

     By Sevag Kechichian, Researcher on Saudi Arabia at Amnesty International.

    The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has, once again, focused international attention to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s human rights record.

    “What will be King Abdullah’s legacy?” everybody seems to be asking.

    The answer is not simple.  

    Since taking the throne in 2005, King Abdullah initiated some positive reforms.

    Women, for example, have slowly been included in the Shura Council, a powerless consultative body to advise the King, and incorporated into the workforce – with some being allowed to work in courts as lawyers.

    The late King is credited for opening a dozen new universities and providing thousands of Saudi Arabian citizens with generous scholarships to study abroad. He also initiated seemingly ambitious judicial reforms that have not really gone anywhere.  

    He even decreed the founding of a formal National Human Rights Commission and allowed the establishment of a supposedly independent human rights organization.

    But that’s where the good news ends.

    January 23, 2015

    The injustice facing one man in Saudi Arabia has brought into focus the harrowing human-rights reality that Canada routinely overlooks in its relationship with the kingdom. As concern increases for blogger Raif Badawi, who is scheduled to receive a public flogging later this week, his case exposes the lengths to which Canada and other governments go to overlook Saudi Arabia’s disgraceful rights record. It is time for a new approach.

    January 23, 2015

    Raif Badawi is sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website in Saudi Arabia.

    Amnesty International spoke with another local blogger – who has to remain anonymous for their own safety – about different tactics the authorities use to silence people online.

    1. Gagging anyone with an independent opinion

    "Overall, the situation in Saudi Arabia is very bad, particularly from the point of view of people with independent opinions who go against the grain. Recently, there have been investigations, arrests and short-term detentions of journalists, athletes, poets, bloggers, activists and tweeters."


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