Saudi Arabia
11.01.19
Urgent Interventions

First female rights defender facing death penalty, to appear before Court on January 13

Paris-Geneva,January 11, 2019 - Human rights defender Israa Al-Ghomgham will appearbefore the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on January 13, 2019 forparticipating in peaceful pro-democracy protests. After spending more thanthree years in arbitrary detention, she faces the death penalty and, ifconvicted, would be the first female human rights defender sentenced to deathin the Kingdom. The Observatory calls for her immediate and unconditionalrelease.

OnJanuary 13, 2019, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, a human rights defender fromthe region of Qatif, an eastern coastal city with a Shia majority, will appearbefore the Specialized Criminal Court - a jurisdiction originally set up toprosecute terrorist acts which is in fact dealing with so-called casesaffecting “national security” and has been criminalising dozens of peacefulactivists, including human rights defenders.

TheObservatory expresses its great concern over the physical and psychologicalintegrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, especially as she does not have access toher lawyer, who never got the authorization to meet with her before the hearings,and as she failed to attend the two precedent hearings, on October 28 andNovember 21, 2018 respectively. The reasons for her non-attendance remainunknown. The Prosecutor called for the application of the death penalty. SaudiArabia executes death penalty mostly by beheading.

"We should not be misled by the apparent opennessdriven by Mohamed Ben Salman. The reality is that dozens of human rightsdefenders, including women, are arbitrarily detained and are exposed totorture. This fact reminds us that Saudi Arabia is still one of the mostrepressive country for human rights in the world. Israa Al-Ghomgham must beimmediately released!", said Alexandra Poméon O’Neill, Director ofthe Observatory at FIDH.

Sentencing IsraaAl-Ghomgham to death would send the most horrible signal to other human rightsactivists in the country. Increased repression against women’s rights defenderscurrently detained in the Kingdom is also to be feared. The international community cannot ignore Saudi Arabia’s attacks on human rightsanymore. Such a horrendous prospect has to be stopped, said Delphine Reculeau, Director of the Observatory at OMCT.

Ms.Israa Al-Ghomgham took part in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations since2011, during the Arab Spring, documented mass demonstrations in the Easternprovinces, and called many times for the respect of freedom of assembly andexpression, the release of prisoners of conscience and human rights defendersand used to express her opinion on social media platforms. She was arbitrarilyarrested on December 8, 2015, after the Saudi authorities launched a raid ather home, arresting her and her husband. She has been detained in Dammam’sal-Mabahith prison until now.

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) is apartnership created in 1997 by the FIDH and the World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT) and aims to intervene to prevent or remedy concrete situationsof repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members ofProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union mechanism for human rights defendersimplemented by international civil society.

Formore information, please contact:

  • FIDH: Alexandra Poméon O’Neill (French, English): + 33 6 48 05 91 72
  • OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: + 41 22 809 49 39
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