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Saudi Arabia

    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.

    May 28, 2013

    Today’s court appeal by two members of a prominent Saudi Arabian human rights organization is a bid for justice amid a broader crackdown on activism in the Gulf kingdom, said Amnesty International.

    On 9 March the Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr Abdullah al-Hamid to 10 and 11 years’ imprisonment, respectively. The conviction related to their role as co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Organization (ACPRA), for which they faced charges such as disobeying the ruler, founding an unlicensed organization, inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations, and harming the image of the state by disseminating false information to foreign groups.

    Besides the lengthy prison terms, their sentences included travel bans of equivalent length following their release. In April, they were given only a month to appeal the convictions after receiving a more than 200-page combined written verdict dated the previous month,.

    May 22, 2013

    Saudi Arabia must halt a “disturbing” rise in death penalty usage that has resulted in at least 47 state killings in the country already this year, Amnesty International urged after six more people were executed today.

    Five Yemeni men were beheaded and “crucified” this morning in the city of Jizan, while a Saudi Arabian man was executed in the south-western city of Abha.

    “Saudi Arabia’s increased use of this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is deeply disturbing and the authorities must halt what is a horrifying trend,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

    “The Kingdom must immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing capital punishment.”

    Pictures today emerged on social media appearing to show five decapitated bodies hanging from a horizontal pole with their heads wrapped in bags.

    The beheading and “crucifixion” took place in front of the University of Jizan where students are taking exams.  

    May 01, 2013

    Four founding members of a nascent human rights group in Saudi Arabia have been interrogated and intimidated in their attempt to get their organization off the ground, Amnesty International said.

    In recent days, the four men who founded the independent Union for Human Rights in late March have been called in for questioning by the Saudi Arabian authorities and threatened with further interrogation. They remain at risk of being detained at any time. 

    Abdullah Modhi al-Attawi, Mohammad Aeid al-Otaibi, Abdullah Faisal al-Harbi and Mohammad Abdullah al-Otaibi have been charged with founding and publicizing an unlicensed organization as well as launching websites without authorization.

    “None of the charges against these four men relates to an internationally recognizable crime, and the irony is that it was precisely because of their attempt to formally register the organization that the authorities clamped down on them,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    April 25, 2013

    An arbitrary court order to detain a university professor for four months after he co-founded a human rights organization is the latest blow to freedom of expression and assembly in the Gulf kingdom, Amnesty International said today.

    On Thursday a criminal court in Buraydah – 350km north of the capital Riyadh – ordered the detention of Dr Abdulkareem Yousef al-Khoder. The 48-year-old is a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Organization (ACPRA) and a professor of comparative jurisprudence at the Faculty of Islamic Jurisprudence at Qassim University.

    No reasons were given for the detention order against al-Khoder, which came after a judge arbitrarily blocked a group of around 10 women from accessing the court to observe his trial. Following his ruling, the judge refused to meet with al-Khoder or his lawyer, and the professor has since been held in Buraydah prison.

    He had been on trial since January 2013 on charges including disobeying the ruler, inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations, disseminating false information to foreign groups, and taking part in founding an unlicensed organization.

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