SAU 006 / 0818 / OBS105.1
Judicial harassment /Death penalty
November 26, 2018
The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requestsyour urgent intervention in the following situation in Saudi Arabia.
The Observatoryhas been informed by reliable sources about the incommunicado detention andjudicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, a women rights defenderfrom the region of Qatif, an eastern coastal city with a Shia majority, afterdocumenting and denouncing human rights violations during peacefulpro-democracy demonstrations.
According tothe information received, on November 21, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham onceagain failed to appear before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) for the third hearing inthe mass trial for “illegal protests” she is facing (see background informationbelow) while the five other defendants, Mr. Ahmad bin Hussien Al-Matrood, Mr.Ali bin Ahmad Aweesheer, Mr. Mousa bin Jaafar al-Hashem (Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham’s husband), Mr. Khalid Bin Abed allah al-Ghanem and Mr. Moujtababin Ali al-Mazayan were present. The reasons for her non-attendance remainunknown.
The thirdsession was devoted to the presentation of the defense of the accused. Three ofthe accused could present their defense and were told that their next hearingwas scheduled for January 13, 2019. The other three accused, including Ms.Israa Al-Ghomgham, were told that they would have the opportunity to presenttheir defense “in two months”.
On October 28,2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham had already failed to appear before the SCC, duringthe second hearing. During this hearing, the accused could not present theirdefense as the hearing was abruptly cancelled for unknown reasons.
The Observatoryexpresses its deepest preoccupation regarding the physicaland psychological integrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, especially as she does nothave access to her relatives nor to her lawyer, who never got the authorizationto meet with her before the hearings.
The Observatoryalso strongly condemns the lack of respect of her right to a fair trial as wellas her ongoing incommunicado detention and judicial harassment.
The Observatoryrecalls that Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham faces charges punished by the death penaltyand that the Prosecutor called for the application of the death penalty againsther. This is the first time the death penalty is requested against a femalehuman rights defender in the country, raising fears about the hardening ofrepression against other women human rights defenders in the country, wheremany are currently detained.
The Observatoryurges the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms.Israa Al-Ghomgham as well as all the other human rights defenders arbitrarilydetained, as their detention and judicial harassment only seems to aim atsanctioning them for their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.
Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham was arbitrarily arrested on December 8, 2015, after the Saudiauthorities launched a raid at her home, arbitrarily arresting her and herhusband. Both have been detained in Dammam’s al-Mabahith prison until now.
On August 15,2018, the Saudi Public Prosecution called the court to apply the death penaltyagainst Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, who was brought before the SCC in Riyadh alongthe five above-mentioned other activists for her first court session after 32months of arbitrary detention. The Public Prosecution accused the sixdefendants of “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement toprotest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflamepublic opinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and“providing moral support to rioters”, charges that do not correspond to anycodified crime. The Public Prosecution called for the death penalty based onthe Islamic law principle of ta’zir, in which the judge has discretion over thedefinition of crimes and sentences. During this hearing, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomghamhad no access to legal representation.
Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham had taken part in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations since 2011,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 expressed her opinions on social media platforms.
Please write tothe authorities in Saudi Arabia, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical andpsychological integrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham as well as of all detainedhuman rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;
ii. Ensure Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham have unhindered access to her family and lawyers and respect in allcircumstances her right to a fair trial;
iii.Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham and end all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level,against her and all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, as theirdetention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for theirlegitimate human rights activities;
iv.Comply in all circumstances with all the provisions ofthe United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular itsArticles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;
v.More generally, ensure in all circumstances therespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance withinternational human rights standards and instruments ratified by Saudi Arabia.
• His Majesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Fax: (via Ministryof the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @KingSalman
• His Excellency, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, CrownPrince of Saudi Arabia, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125;Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• H.E. Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister ofJustice, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email: email@example.com
• His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud BinNaif Bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: + 96611 401 1111 / + 966 11 401 1944 / + 966 11 403 1125; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• H.E. Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of ForeignAffairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ; Email: email@example.com
• H.E. Abdulaziz Alwasil, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of SaudiArabia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 0000. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia inBrussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Saudi Arabia inyour respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassiesin Saudi Arabia.
Paris-Geneva, November26, 2018
Kindly inform us of anyaction undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 byFIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of thisprogramme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression againsthuman rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European UnionHuman Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
The SCC was originally set up in 2009 to prosecute those withdirect links to terrorist acts. Today this jurisdiction has been dealing withcases affecting “national security” in the broadest sense of the term and defacto all cases deemed by the regime as “sensitive”. All individualsvoicing criticisms against the administration and its policies, in particular humanrights defenders, have been prosecuted before this court.