Saudi Arabia
Urgent Interventions

Ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi


SAU 001/ 0118 / OBS 012.1
Arbitrary detention /



October 18, 2019

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDHand the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new informationand requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in SaudiArabia.

New information:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrarydetention and judicial harassment of Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi, co-founderof the Union for Human Rights[1].

Accordingto the information received, on October 15, 2019, Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibiappeared before Riyadh’s Specialised Criminal Court[2]over charges of "fleeing justice", "going toQatar", "communicating with foreign entities", and"interfering in public affairs”. A fifth charge, “participating in ACPRA[3]”was added, which Mr. Al-Otaibi rejected because he was a member andadministrator of another NGO, namely the Union for Human Rights. However, theProsecution said they had evidences of Mr. Al-Otaibi’s participation in ACPRA,that they will bring during the next hearing. The charge sheet was handed tohim, and Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi has until the next hearing (which date was notscheduled yet) to respond to it. No international observers were present forthis new hearing in the trial against Mr. Al-Otaibi, which started on July 25,2019.

The Observatory recalls that this isnot the first time Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi is being judicially harassed by theSaudi authorities, and that Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi, who was sentenced to 14years in jail in January 2018, remains detained at the Intelligence Prison inAl-Damam since May 2017 (see background information).

TheObservatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicialharassment of Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi, which seem to be only aimed at punishinghim for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on theSaudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Al-Otaibi andput an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, againsthim and all the human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.


Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi was first arrested onJanuary 1, 2009, charged with “attempting to initiate a peaceful demonstration”to protest the Gaza war and subsequently sentenced on these charges to threeyears in prison. He served three years and seven months in prison before he wasfinally released on June 10, 2012.

InApril 2013, Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi co-foundedthe Union for Human Rights in Riyadh and applied for registration. Less than amonth after the first position papers[4]of the organisation were published on social networks by the Union for HumanRights, a criminal enquiry was launched against them. In May 2013, Saudiauthorities rejected the application for registration of the Union for HumanRights and sought undertakings from the founders that they would dissolve theassociation and desist from carrying on its activities.

InMarch 2014, Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi were summoned bySaudi authorities and as a result both pledged to stop issuing statements,reports, or participating in TV interviews. Their case was then closed.

In2015, following the publication of the Law on Associations and Foundations,Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi filed an application toregister the Union for Human Rights. Their application was rejected and proceedingsand general harassment by the Ministry of Social Affairs to dissolve theorganisation continued.

OnOctober 30, 2016, the case was re-opened and the trial of Messrs. MohamedAl-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi opened before the Specialised Criminal Court onthe basis of the charges related to their application to establish their NGO, broughtagainst them in 2013.

InFebruary 2017, Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi managed nonetheless to flee to Qatar.On May 24, 2017, on his way to Norway where he had been granted refugee status,he was arrested at Hamad International Airport in Doha and deported to SaudiArabia the following day. He has been in prison ever since.

Ahearing scheduled to take place on July 12, 2017 was postponed to August 8,2017 and further to January 25, 2018.

On January 25, 2018, Section 12 of the SpecialisedCriminal Court sentenced Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi tofourteen and seven years in prison respectively, under a series of charges,including: “participating in setting up an organisation and announcing itbefore getting an authorisation”, “dividing national unity”, “spreading chaosand inciting public opinion by preparing, drafting and publishing statementsthat are harmful to the reputation of the Kingdom and its judicial and securityinstitutions”, “opposing judicial decisions”, “formulating data aimed atdisrupting security”, “participating in a hunger strike”, and “publishinginformation about their interrogations despite signing pledges to refrain fromdoing so”.

Mr. MohamedAl-Otaibi was facing additional charges of “disseminating information about aninvestigation”, “abusing the Kingdom via Twitter”, “calling to change the basicsystem of governance” as well as “spreading harmful information about SaudiArabia via a satellite channel”.


Pleasewrite to the authorities in Saudi Arabia, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in allcircumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi, as well as of all humanrights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Immediately andunconditionally release Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and all detained human rightsdefenders in Saudi Arabia, astheir detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them fortheir legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Respect in all circumstances Mr. MohamedAl-Otaibi’s right to a fair trial;

iv. Put an end to allforms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all humanrights defenders in Saudi Arabia, and ensure that they are able to carry out theiractivities without hindrance;

v. Comply in all circumstances with all theprovisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, inparticular its Articles 1 and 12.2;

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstancesthe respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance withinternational human rights standards and instruments ratified by Saudi Arabia.


HisMajesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodianof the two Holy Mosques, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125;Email:; Twitter: @KingSalman

HisExcellency, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Fax:(via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email:

H.E.Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister of Justice, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email:

His RoyalHighness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, Minister ofInterior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: + 966 11 401 1111 / + 966 11 401 1944 /+ 966 11 403 1125; Email:

H.E. Adelbin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ;Email:
• 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:
• H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia inBrussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email:

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,October 18, 2019

Kindly inform us ofany action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory forthe Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective ofthis programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European UnionHuman Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1]Founded in 2013, the Union for HumanRights’ main objectives were to defend the rights of citizens, spread theculture of human rights, abolish the death penalty, and to strengthen the roleof women in society. In 2015, the application to have the NGO officiallyregistered under the Law on Associations and Foundations was rejected. While itwas operating, the Union for Human Rights monitored trials of human rightsdefenders, released explanatory statements about the hearings, documented andpublished appeals on human rights violations.

[2]Set up in 2003, the Specialised CriminalCourt was originally tasked with trying terrorism and national security casesin accordance with Sharia. However, the Court has been used as a tool torepress human rights defenders tried on charges affecting national security inthe broadest sense. For more information, see Observatory Mission Report, SaudiArabia: Condemned to Silence, the situation of women human rights defenders,January 2018.

[3]The Saudi Association for Civil and PoliticalRights (ACPRA) was createdin 2009 by 11 human rights defenders and academics, with the mandate to promoteand protect fundamental rights and freedoms in Saudi Arabia. While ACPRA wasnever legally recognised by the government, it was formally banned as anorganisation in 2013. As of May 2016, all of its 11 members had been prosecutedand subjected to severe treatment by Saudi authorities for their human rightsactivism and cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. See Observatory Joint Open Letter, published on October 11, 2019 :

[4]The position papers were detailing theobjectives of the Union for Human Rights.

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts