Saudi Arabia: International community cannot remain silent about detained activists

Blog ID : #2299
Publish Date : 06/03/2018 23:33
While Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to present himself as a reformer, peaceful human rights activism that calls for reforms continues to be criminalized.

More than two weeks have passed since a number of prominent women’s rights activists were arrested, although Saudi Arabia has "temporarily" released eight of them yet nine other women's rights activists remain in custody due to confessions and "sufficient evidence against them and without access to their families or lawyers.

Saudi authorities claim those activists admitted to communicating and cooperating with "individuals and organizations hostile" to the Kingdom; recruiting people in a position to obtain confidential information and official documents to harm the country's interests; and providing financial and moral support to hostile elements abroad.

The European Parliament issued a resolution calling for their unconditional release and that of all human rights defenders. “The strong message sent by the European Parliament should be a catalyst for the EU’s Diplomatic Chief Federica Mogherini and EU member states to step up pressure on the Saudi Arabian authorities, and should also prompt others to follow suit.” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.

Saudi Arabia’s allies - in particular the U.S., UK and France - must push Saudi Arabian authorities to end their targeted repression of human rights activists in the country. European and world leaders must not stay silent in the face of gross and systematic violations of the human rights of activists and human rights defenders.
"Saudi government seems so consumed with silencing dissent that even activists who have gone quiet for fear of retribution are being targeted again. The Saudi authorities should be concerned that the chill created by this new wave of repression will lead the country's allies to question how serious Saudi Arabia is about changing its approach to women's rights” said Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) has also condemned the arrests and called on Saudi Arabia to release the activists. “If, as it appears, their detention is related solely to their work as human rights defenders and activists on women's issues, they should be released immediately.” The agency called on Saudi Arabia to provide information about the arrested activists and ensure their legal rights were guaranteed.
According to Aljazeera, activists and diplomats have speculated that the new wave of arrests may be aimed at appeasing conservative elements opposed to social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS. It may also be a message to activists not to push demands out of sync with the government's own agenda.

The recent sweeping crackdown on human rights activists this month is sadly not an anomaly. The overall human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is really controversial. Amnesty International has documented continued arrests and harsh prison sentences of human rights activists for their peaceful activism.

While Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to present himself as a reformer, peaceful human rights activism that calls for reforms continues to be criminalized. Saudi Arabia cannot continue to publicly proclaim support for women’s rights and other reforms, while targeting women human rights defenders and activists for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
“What we know is that the Saudi crown prince wants to make it clear to all of his citizens that they are his subjects who must be grateful for whatever liberties he gives them, but they must not demand any of their rights.” said a researcher at Human Rights Watch.