Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Saudi Arabia: Condemnation of Mr. Raif Badawi to 10 years’ imprisonment and 1,000 lashes


SAU 001 / 0514 / OBS 048
Arbitrary detention / Sentencing /
Corporal punishment
Saudi Arabia

May 27, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Saudi Arabia.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the recent condemnation of Mr. Raif Badawi, blogger and creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, to 10 years’ imprisonment and 1,000 lashes for promoting freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia.

According to the information received, on May 7, 2014, the Jeddah Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Raif Badawi to 10 years of imprisonment, 1,000 lashes and a fine of one million riyals (200,000 €) for “insulting Islam and religious authorities”. This verdict is the outcome of continuous judicial harassment targeting the human right defender since he created at the beginning of 2006 the websiteFree Saudi Liberals. This liberal blog promoted freedom of expression and fostered public debate about religion in Saudi Arabia, but was closed by the authorities in July 2013.

Mr. Raif Badawi is kept in detention in the Jeddah prison since his arrest on June 17, 2012. He was tried for apostasy - punishable by death penalty in Saudi Arabia - and setting up an illegal website. Pursuant to those charges, he was initially sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes by the District Court in Jeddah on July 29, 2013. However, the verdict cleared him from the capital sentence encompassed by the charge of apostasy.

With the help of his lawyer, he appealed against his conviction. On December 12, 2013, the Court of Appeals quashed the first instance verdict and sent the case back to retrial. Eventually, the Jeddah Criminal Court handed down a harsher sentence by increasing the prison term to 10 years and the number of lashes to 1,000. Mr. Raif Badawi appealed the decision.

As Saudi Arabia adopted a new anti-terrorist law in 2014 hostile to human rights defenders[1], the conviction of Mr. Raif Badawi appears as one of many attempts to silence human rights activists in the country. The Observatory expresses its deep concern regarding his conviction, which seems to be aimed at preventing Mr. Raif Badawi from carrying out his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities in Saudi Arabia.

In particular, the Observatory is alarmed by the sentencing of Mr. Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and the use of corporal punishment as a criminal sanction. The Observatory recalls Saudi Arabia has adhered to the Convention Against Torture in 1997, which prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Saudi Arabia asking them to:

Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Raif Badawi, as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

Quash the conviction and sentencing of Mr. Raif Badawi, which only serves to prevent him from carrying out his peaceful human rights work, and release him immediately and unconditionally, as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia;

Put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Raif Badawi and all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;

Comply in all circumstances with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its:

- Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

- Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

- Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

Comply with the provisions of the Arab Charter, in particular its article 32 which protects “the right to information, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, freedom to seek, receive and impart information by all means, regardless of frontiers”.

More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratify international and regional human rights instruments and harmonise its domestic law with international human rights instruments.

Addresses:

· His Majesty, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Office of His Majesty the King, Royal Court, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125

· H.E. Shaykh Dr Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Issa, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, University Street, Riyadh 11137, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: + 966 11 401 1741 / + 966 11 402 0311

· His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Minister of Interior, Ministry of the Interior, P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: +966 11 403 3125

· H.E. Mr. Faisal Bin Hassan Trad, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Route de Lausanne 263, 1292 ChambĂ©sy, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 00 00. Email: saudi.mission.ch@mofa.gov.sa

· H.E. Mr. Abdullah bin Yahya AL-Mualemy, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Brussels, Avenue Franklin Rosevelt, 45 1050 Brussels – Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email:beemb@mofa.gov.sa

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Saudi Arabia in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, May 27, 2014

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

[1] In April 2014, Saudi Arabia passed a new terrorism law labeling anyone who “calls for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion” as a terrorist.

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