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Saudi Arabia

    September 02, 2020

    This November, Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Riyadh. The Summit will bring together some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, including Canada, to address global issues, and it is an important moment for Saudi Arabia to strike business deals and grow its diplomatic power.

    Hosting the G20 Summit is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve its image. But the glamour of hosting a major global summit masks what is really going on in Saudi Arabia—a brutal government campaign of repression, intolerance, and human rights violations.

    Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, writers, artists, religious clerics, protestors and bloggers have been persecuted, silenced, detained, tortured and handed lengthy prison sentences for demanding reforms and advocating for peaceful change. Several were sentenced to death and executed based on so-called “confessions” extracted under torture.

    June 18, 2020
    No-one could have predicted the disruptive start to 2020 brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. As our world experiences its most profound societal changes for a generation, and life is put on hold for many, fighting for human rights must continue if we are to ensure a stable, just and secure future. Here we take a look at the human rights successes, against all odds, won in late 2019 and the first months of 2020…   December 2019

    A group of girls who had been forced to leave school when they became pregnant, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2016

    April 27, 2020

    Saudi Arabia executed a record number of people in 2019 – 184 – but there may be fewer this year. Saudi Arabia announced today that it plans to end the use of the death penalty against people below the age of 18 at the time of the crime (although the Royal Decree excludes crimes under the counter-terror law). The death penalty will be replaced with a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

    If implemented, this will be a significant step towards respecting the rights to life, to security of person and to freedom from cruel treatment. Does it go far enough? Absolutely not. So Amnesty International is taking this moment to call on Saudi Arabia to take a big step: temporarily halt all executions while a roadmap to total abolition is created.

    In another positive move, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court issued a directive in mid April for courts to end discretionary flogging punishments. Humane replacements could include jail time, fines or community service. It is still unclear whether this applies to mandatory flogging punishments for other offences under Shari’a law, including for alcohol use and sexual offences.

    November 02, 2018

    Over the past month, the story of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and subsequent death inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, grabbed headlines around the world.  Renowned journalists have paid tribute to Khashoggi and his work, and Amnesty International is calling on UN Secretary General António Guterres to set up an independent investigation so that we may know the truth of what took place. Canadians from coast to coast have rightfully expressed their outrage over this brutal act, which is only the latest in series of troublesome developments coming out of the Saudi kingdom. Think of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, a fine, a travel ban, and 1,000 lashes for exercising his freedom of expression. Think of Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, and Aziza al-Yousef, three women’s rights activists who remain imprisoned without charge.

    November 01, 2018

    One month ago, on October 2nd, Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. What happened next was a series of dramatic and horrifying events that unfolded as we watched in real time on our screens and smart phones from around the world. His friends, family, colleagues, activists, politicians, and concerned people from around the world asked, “Where is Jamal?”

    August 08, 2018
    Demand freedom for women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia

    By Alex Neve
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

    Last week, two prominent and courageous women’s rights activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, were arrested in Saudi Arabia.

    No one imagined that on top of the personal injustice for Samar and Nassima that their arrest was going to spark a major diplomatic stand-off between Canada and Saudi Arabia about human rights.  And in doing so, put Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record in the international spotlight in ways that it rarely is.

    Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada are, sadly, two more in a growing list of women human rights defenders arrested and jailed in Saudi Arabia over the past three months. That includes Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, imprisoned since mid-May.  Loujain has strong Canadian connections, as she is a graduate of the University of British Columbia.  

    June 01, 2018

    Since the 1990s, women in Saudi Arabia have been advocating for the right to drive cars. The driving ban was overturned last year, and women will finally be allowed to drive starting June 24, 2018.

    But just weeks before the ban is set to be lifted, Saudi authorities have detained—without charge—and held incommunicado, some of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent and outspoken women human rights defenders, including University of British Columbia graduate Loujain al-Hathloul. At least 11 women human rights defenders have been arrested and six remain in detention. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, none have been charged with an offense. They have no access to lawyers or their families, and they are at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

    The activists arrested have all peacefully advocated for women’s right to drive, an end to the male guardianship system, and gender equality. Arresting the most prominent women’s rights advocates could decimate the women’s rights movement in Saudi Arabia.

    May 31, 2018

    Since May 2018, authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested some of the country’s most prominent women human rights defenders. These courageous activists have peacefully advocated for the right of women to drive, an end to the male guardianship system, and for justice and equality. They have done nothing wrong, have not been charged with any crime, and should be released immediately and unconditionally. 

    We need you to take action online to support women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. 

    Saudi officials monitor social media and are sensitive to international pressure. This is why Amnesty International’s actions directly target the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Ottawa and official Saudi government social media feeds to:

    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: 

    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. 

    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

    March 21, 2017

    March 21 marks Mother’s Day in much of the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia. For the mothers of Abdullah al-Zaher, Dawood al-Marhoon, Ali al-Nimr and Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, four young Saudi Arabian men who were arrested as minors and sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials based on “confessions” they say were extracted under torture, Mother’s Day is a day of heartache. But it is also yet another day of hope and prayer for their sons’ release.

    This is what the mothers of the four young men, Fatima al-Azwi, Amina al-Safar, Nassra al-Ahmed and Amina al-Mustafa have to share today, on Mother’s day, on how they feel and what they wish for other mothers like them.  

     

    Fatima al-Azwi

    Abdullah al-Zaher’s mother

    August 29, 2016

    By Rasha Mohamed and Rasha Abdul Rahim

    The airstrike on Abs Rural Hospital in Yemen's Hajjah governorate on 15 August was the fourth attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in 10 months. That didn't lessen the shock.

    Sixteen-year-old ambulance driver Ayman Issa Bakri was among the 10 dead. He had been working there since MSF began supporting the hospital in the summer of 2015. When his body was found near the impact site, he was still holding the woman he had been transferring from the ambulance to the A&E.

    Shortly after, MSF announced it was winding up its operations in Yemen; it is hard to imagine the despair that Yemenis feel when the only hospital for miles disappears.

    At the site of the ruined hospital, Amnesty International identified remnants of bombs that appear to have been manufactured either in the USA or the UK. This would be consistent with what we know about prolific arms exports by these countries to Saudi Arabia and other members of its military coalition.

    July 04, 2016
    By Tawanda Mutasah, Senior Director International Law and Policy at Amnesty International

    Ten years since it was first created the UN Human Rights Council is facing a stark moment of truth.  The credibility of the world’s top human rights body, which was set up to ensure that it is able to effectively address human rights violations without being undermined by geopolitics and competing national interests, is being called into question because of the abysmal track record of one of its members – Saudi Arabia - and the failure of other members to call it to account.

    Since it joined the UN Human Rights Council in January 2014 Saudi Arabia has carried out gross and systematic human rights violations both at home and in neighbouring Yemen.  

    It has consistently ranked as one of the world’s top executioners, has presided over a ruthless crackdown against peaceful dissent and human rights activism in Saudi Arabia and most recently lead a military coalition which stands accused of carrying out war crimes in Yemen.

    February 12, 2016

    By Nassra al-Ahmed

    Ali al-Nimr was just 17 when he was arrested on 14 February 2012, a few months after taking part in anti-government rallies in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced to death, despite being a minor when he was arrested and following a deeply unfair trial based on “confessions” he says were obtained through torture. He now awaits his execution. His mother, Nassra al-Ahmed, tells their story.

    When I first heard the verdict to execute my little boy, I felt as if a thunderbolt was hitting my head. It rendered me bereaved and rid of the most cherished and beautiful things I have.

    His absence has exhausted my heart. My eyes shed tears automatically, yearning for him. I am overtaken by missing his angelic features. His smile never leaves my mind and memories prompt me to weep each time I see one of his pictures. 

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