Saudi Arabia
Urgent Interventions

Ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham

New information

SAU 006 / 0818 / OBS 105.2

Arbitrary detention /

Judicial harassment

Saudi Arabia

February 5, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Saudi Arabia.


The Observatory has been informed by reliablesources about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham, a human rights defender from the region of Qatif, an easterncoastal city with a Shia majority, after documenting and denouncing humanrights violations during peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations[1].

According to the information received, onJanuary 31, 2019, the authorities confirmed in a public statement that theywould not seek the imposition of the death penalty against Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham, prosecuted for “illegal protests” before the Specialised CriminalCourt (SCC)[2]together with five other defendants[3].

On January 13, 2019, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomghamwas due to appear before the SCC for the fourth time, but the hearing waspostponed over internal restructuring of the Court. The Prosecutor had calledto apply the death penalty against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham in her first hearing(see background information), making her the first female human rights defenderto eventually be executed in Saudi Arabia.

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham remains detained inAl-Dhamam General Intelligence Prison and the same charges are still pendingagainst her. Four of her five male co-defendants are still facing deathpenalty. The new hearing date has not been publicised yet.

On October 12, 2018, United Nations SpecialProcedures expressed their concern over Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham arbitrarydetention and threats of death penalty[4].

The Observatory reiterates its deepestpreoccupation regarding the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, especially as she doesnot have access to her relatives nor to her lawyer, and as she failed to appearto her precedent hearings.

The Observatory recalls that many other female human rights defendersface arbitrary detention and judicial harassment in Saudi Arabia.

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoingarbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham and allthe human rights defenders in the country, and calls on Saudi authorities toimmediately and unconditionally release them.

Background information:

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham was arbitrarilyarrested on December 8, 2015, after the Saudi authorities launched a raid ather home, arbitrarily arresting her and her husband. Both have been detained inDammam’s al-Mabahith prison since then.

On August 15, 2018, the Saudi PublicProsecution called the court to apply the death penalty against Ms. IsraaAl-Ghomgham, who was brought before the SCC in Riyadh along the fiveabove-mentioned other activists for her first court session after 32 months ofarbitrary detention. The Public Prosecution accused the six defendants of“participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement to protest,”“chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflame publicopinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and “providingmoral support to rioters”, charges that do not correspond to any codifiedcrime. The Public Prosecution called for the death penalty based on the Islamiclaw principle of ta’zir,in which the judge has discretion over the definition of crimes and sentences.During this hearing, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham had no access to legalrepresentation.

On October 28, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomghamfailed to appear before the SCC, during the second hearing. During thishearing, the accused could not present their defence as the hearing wasabruptly cancelled for unknown reasons.

On November 21, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomghamonce again failed to appear before the SCC for the third hearing while the fiveother defendants were present. The reasons for her non-attendance remainunknown.

The third session was devoted to thepresentation of the defence of the accused. Three of the accused could presenttheir defence and were told that their next hearing was scheduled for January13, 2019. The other three accused, including Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, were toldthat they would have the opportunity to present their defense “in two months”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in SaudiArabia, 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.


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:

HisRoyal Highness 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.Adel bin 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, February 5, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertakenquoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is tointervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights DefendersMechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] 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.

[2] The SCC was originally set up in 2009 to prosecutethose with direct links to terrorist acts. It is part of the Ministry of theInterior rather than the Ministry of Justice, placing it firmly within thenational security sphere. This jurisdiction has been dealing with casesaffecting “national security”. It is used by the Saudi government to crushpeaceful dissent from human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists.

[3] The five others are 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.


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