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Saudi Arabia

    June 25, 2014

    A prominent Saudi Arabian activist convicted today for speaking out on the human rights situation in his country should have his sentence quashed, Amnesty International said amid an ongoing crackdown on rights groups.

    Fowzan al-Harbi, a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was sentenced to seven years in prison and a travel ban of equal duration by a court in the capital Riyadh after being convicted on a range of spurious charges related to his human rights work.

    “Fowzan al-Harbi has been ruthlessly targeted for daring to question the Saudi authorities’ human rights record,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “His sentence should be quashed immediately and he should walk free from the court. He should never have faced trial in the first place.”

    May 07, 2014

    Amnesty International is calling on Saudi Arabia’s authorities to quash the outrageous sentencing today of Raif Badawi in connection with an online forum for public debate he set up and accusations that he insulted Islam.

    Raif Badawi, co-founder of the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (about US$266,631) by Jeddah’s Criminal Court.

    “The decision to sentence Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is outrageous. He is a prisoner of conscience who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression. The authorities must overturn his conviction and release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    April 16, 2014

    Saudi Arabia must immediately release prominent human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation, said Amnesty International.

    Waleed Abu al-Khair was detained in connection with his human rights work. He is now facing charges almost identical ones he was convicted of by another criminal court back in October 2013.

    “Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “Waleed Abu al-Khair’s detention is a worrying example of how Saudi Arabian authorities are abusing the justice system to silence peaceful dissent. Nobody should be jailed for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.”

    March 28, 2014

    President Barack Obama must break the US administration’s silence on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record by taking a strong public stand against the systematic violations in the Kingdom during his visit there this week, said Amnesty International.

    The US president is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia today. His visit coincides with a local campaign calling for an end to the driving ban for women in the Kingdom. Amnesty International is asking President Obama to express his dismay at the discrimination against women by appointing a woman as his official driver during the visit.

    “It is crucial that President Obama sends a strong message to the government of Saudi Arabia that its gross human rights violations and systematic discrimination are unacceptable. A failure to do so would undermine the human rights principles the USA purports to stand for,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    March 19, 2014

    Saudi Arabia’s decision to accept numerous recommendations to improve its human rights record during its United Nations Human Rights Council review session in Geneva today, are unlikely to put an end to grave violations and discrimination or lead to justice and redress for victims, said Amnesty International.

    “Until Saudi Arabia’s actions match its words the Kingdom’s dire reputation as a grave violator of human rights is unlikely to change,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “Saudi Arabia must prove that its acceptance of these recommendations is more than a mere public relations exercise designed to deflect criticism of its human rights record.”

    Although Saudi Arabia fully accepted a majority of the recommendations made to it during the review of its human rights record, it rejected crucial recommendations to ratify core international treaties including those that would safeguard the rights of women and grant victims access to justice.

    March 06, 2014

    Saudi Arabia must immediately and unconditionally release two founders of a local human rights organization who have spent nearly a year behind bars, after being convicted on the basis of their peaceful activism and criticism of the authorities, said Amnesty International.

    Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid were sentenced to 10 and 11 years in jail respectively on 9 March 2013. Both are co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), one of the few organizations in the country recording human rights violations and assisting families of detainees held without charge.

    “Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid are guilty of nothing more than daring to speak out on Saudi Arabia’s dire human rights record. The reality is that the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is abysmal and anyone who risks highlighting flaws in the system is branded a criminal and tossed in a jail cell,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    February 03, 2014

    A new counter-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia will entrench existing patterns of human rights violations and serve as a further tool to suppress peaceful political dissent, Amnesty International said after analyzing the legislation.

    The Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, which took effect on 1 February, uses an overly vague definition of terrorism, gives the Ministry of Interior broad new powers and legalizes a range of ongoing human rights violations against detainees.

    “This disturbing new law confirms our worst fears – that the Saudi Arabian authorities are seeking legal cover to entrench their ability to crack down on peaceful dissent and silence human rights defenders,” said Said Boumedouha, Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Amnesty International’s fears about this law are not recent. In 2011, the organization detailed its concerns about a leaked draft of the legislation, which highlighted the negative human rights impact such a law would have.

    January 14, 2014

    The European Court of Human Rights ruling that three British men who say they were tortured in prison in Saudi Arabia cannot pursue a claim through the UK courts is a retrograde step which dashes any hope of justice, said Amnesty International.

    The ruling blocks any opportunity for further legal action. A fourth victim died before the case was decided.

    “This is a retrograde step. Unless the UK government enters into diplomatic negotiations with Saudi Arabia for compensation, this decision dashes the victims’ hopes for justice,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s deputy director of the Law and Policy program.

    “There was never any prospect of obtaining justice in Saudi Arabia and the only option for these men was to bring the case through the UK courts. This is a major blow for not just for these men but victims of torture globally.”

    After more than 10 years of litigation, the ruling comes as a final blow to the expatriate workers who were arrested in Riyadh in 2000 and 2001 and accused of involvement in a bombing campaign.

    November 28, 2013

    Two prominent activists in Saudi Arabia have been questioned today on as yet unspecified charges as the continuing crackdown on independent human rights work in the country intensifies, said Amnesty International.

    The hearing came a day after a special security court raised an additional charge against a prominent human rights activist in a trial that has been ongoing for 20 months.

    “The crackdown on freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia is widening with at least a dozen human rights activists sentenced in 2013 alone,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director

    “It is high time for the authorities to allow people to peacefully voice their opinions and stop punishing activists for their legitimate work.”

    Issa al-Hamid and Abdulaziz al-Shubaily from the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA) were interrogated today by the General Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.

    October 29, 2013

    Today’s decision by a Jeddah criminal court to imprison a prominent human rights lawyer for having signed a pro-reform statement two years ago is yet another sign of the arbitrary nature of Saudi Arabia’s justice system, Amnesty International said.

    Human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair has been sentenced to three months in prison for offending the Saudi Arabian judiciary. The charges stem mainly from his signing a petition in 2011 that criticized the heavy-handedness of the Saudi Arabian authorities in dealing with 16 reformists.

    “This trial is a yet another example of how the authorities abuse the justice system to silence peaceful dissent in Saudi Arabia,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “This conviction and prison sentence should be quashed. And the pending charges should be dropped. Amnesty International considers anybody put behind bars merely for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression to be a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    October 25, 2013

    Saudi Arabian women activists still plan to defy a driving ban in the Kingdom on 26 October despite having their campaign website hacked and receiving repeated threats from the authorities to thwart the effort, Amnesty International said.

    Early on Friday a hacker took down the website oct26driving.org, posting in its place the message “Drop the leadership of Saudi women .. Accident.” The cyber attack came just hours after a spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior reiterated a pledge to enforce the longstanding ban on women driving. 

    “Saudi Arabian authorities use the excuse that society at large is behind the ban and claim that the law does not discriminate against women. But at the same time they continue to harass and intimidate women activists,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.

    “This has included phone call and online threats, arbitrary travel bans and detentions, forcing activists and their family members to sign pledges not to drive, and using the state-controlled media to discredit activists.

    October 24, 2013

    By: Eman Al Nafjan (@Saudiwoman) is a female blogger from Saudi Arabia who has been campaigning against the driving ban. She was arrested by police earlier this month as she filmed a female driver breaking the ban.  

    If there was one word to describe what it is like to be a Saudi woman, it would be the word patronizing. No matter how long you live, you remain a minor in the eyes of the government.

    October 24, 2013

    The Saudi Arabian authorities must respect the right of women to drive this Saturday in defiance of a ban on women driving in the Kingdom, said Amnesty International.
     
    On Wednesday the Ministry of Interior warned that it would respond “firmly and with force” if campaigners press ahead with plans to challenge the ban on Saturday 26 October.
     
    “It is astonishing that in the 21st century the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny women the right to legally drive a car,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
     
    “The driving ban is inherently discriminatory and demeaning to women and must be overturned immediately. It is completely unacceptable for the authorities to stand in the way of activists planning to campaign against it.

    October 21, 2013

    Saudi Arabia has failed on every count to live up to its promises to address the dire human rights situation in the country, said Amnesty International.

    An Amnesty International submission ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva on Monday to scrutinize the country’s human rights record, details an ongoing crackdown including arbitrary arrests and detention, unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment over the past four years.

    “Saudi Arabia’s previous promises to the UN have been proven to be nothing but hot air. It relies on its political and economic clout to deter the international community from criticizing its dire human rights record,” said Philip Luther, Director of Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    The Saudi Arabian authorities have failed to implement any of the main recommendations from the last review by the UN Human Rights Council – known as the Universal Periodic Review – which took place in 2009.

    June 17, 2013

    In an action targeting King Abdullah, Amnesty International today urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally a website founder still detained and on trial one year after his arrest for expressing views online.

    After founding “Saudi Arabian Liberals” – an online forum for political and social debate – Raif Badawi, 29, was charged last June with “setting up a website that undermines public security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures. The prosecution had on the basis of this called for him to be tried for “apostasy”, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

    He has been detained for the past year in a prison in Briman, in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah, after being arrested on 17 June 2012.

    “One year on, Raif Badawi remains behind bars as his trial continues for the ‘crime’ of encouraging social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

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