Worsening of the Human Rights Situation in...
“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.
According to human rights activist in Britain, Yahya Al-Asiri, the officers who took Al-Oudeh in Riyadh said one of the reasons for his arrest was for not declaring support for Saudi policies in Qatar. On Friday, in his Twitter account Al-Oudeh had expressed hope that the phone conversation between Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and the Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamd Aal Sani, as a sign of an end to the crisis in the relations between the two countries.
It has also been said that Al-Gharani who has been arrested in the city of Abha in southern Saudi Arabia, in his Twitter has called for better relations with Qatar. He has 2 million followers in Twitter.
Abdullah al-Maliki, an academic and writer known for his support for reforms and human rights, was reportedly detained on 12 September. Essam al-Zamel, an entrepreneur known for his writing about the need of economic reform, was also arrested the same day. To date, there is no official information about the whereabouts of any of those swept in this crackdown.
The number of people detained remains unknown, with reports of further arrests emerging on social media.
“We are deeply worried about the wellbeing of those being detained. The Saudi Arabian government must immediately reveal their whereabouts and ensure they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and allow them access to lawyers as well as contact with their families,” said Samah Hadid. “The authorities must immediately disclose the charges being brought against those detained, and if they are detained for their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression then they should be released immediately”.
While to date, the exact reasons for these arrests remain unclear, the State Security, an agency reporting to the King which was recently formed to consolidate counter-terrorism and domestic intelligence, issued a statement on 11 September saying that it was monitoring “the intelligence activities of a group of people for the benefit of foreign parties against the security of the kingdom and its interests, methodology, capabilities and social peace in order to stir up sedition and prejudice national unity.”
Authorities continued to put human rights defenders on trial on charges related to their peaceful activism before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh, a notorious tribunal set up to deal with security and terrorism-related cases under the 2014 counter-terror law. A worrying increase in executions has also been documented as well as the upholding of death sentences of political dissidents.
“The majority of Saudi Arabian human rights defenders are now either in prison serving their sentence or facing grossly unfair trials, the remaining few fear that their names are on the government’s ‘hunting list’ and that they will soon be detained,” said Samah Hadid. A worrying increase in executions has also been documented as well as the upholding of death sentences of political dissidents.
By: Marzieh Azizian