Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Ongoing acts of harassment against several human rights defenders

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 10 November 2006
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Ongoing acts of harassment against several human rights defenders, 10 November 2006, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
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Open Letter to H.E. Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deep concern over ongoing obstacles to the freedoms of expression and movement of several human rights defenders.

Your Excellency,

According to the information received, since 2004, several human rights defenders, who called themselves the "Saudi Reformers", have been banned from travelling abroad and expressing their views in the national press and international media. Among this group of human rights defenders, many are known for their long and active involvement in the promotion of democratic reforms in the country, including:

  • Mr. Abdullah Alhamad, university lecturer
  • Mr. Matrouk Al-Faleh, university lecturer
  • Mr. Ali Al-Domainy, writer
  • Mr. Abdulrahman Alahem, lawyer
  • Mr. Mohammed Saeed Tayab, lawyer
  • Mr. Sheikh Sulaiman Alrashudi, cleric, legal adviser and former judge
  • Mr. Najeeb Alqasir, university lecturer

The Observatory recalls that on March 16, 2004, all these men had been detained for criticising the lack of independence of the newly established National Human Rights Committee and for submitting a request for the creation and registration of an independent human rights organisation.

On May 15, 2005, Messrs. Abdullah Al-Hamad, Matrouk Al-Faleh and Ali Al-Domainy, who refused to sign such a commitment, were respectively sentenced to nine, seven and six years of imprisonment by the Riyadh Criminal Court for "stirring up sedition and disobeying the ruler". On July 23, 2005, the Riyadh Court of Appeal upheld the verdict of the Criminal Court. Messrs. Abdulrahman Alahem, Mohammed Saeed Tayab, Sheikh Sulaiman Alrashudi and Najeeb Alqasir had been released on March 30, 2004, after signing a commitment in which they promised to stop their activities in favour of political reforms and human rights, as well as any contacts with the media.

On August 8, 2005, Messrs. Abdullah Alhamad, Matrouk Al-Faleh and Ali Al-Domainy were granted a royal pardon by King Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Azi Al-Saud, and subsequently released, along with their lawyer, Mr. Abdulrahman Alahem, who had been meanwhile rearrested on November 9, 2004 for having breached the pledge he was forced to sign at the end of his first detention (See Observatory Annual Report 2005).

However, since then, all men have been prevented from leaving the country, due to the ban on travel, standing for five years, that was issued at the time of their arrest. As a consequence, they sent collective letters to Prince Mohammed Bin Nayif, Assistant to the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Interior, Price Nayif Bin Abdulaziz, and to Mr. Turki Khalid Al-Sudairi, Head of the Saudi Commission on Human Rights, in order to lift their ban on travel. As of now, they did not receive any reply to their request.

Furthermore, since August 2004, Ms. Wahija Alhowaider, a women's rights defender and a member of the non-governmental organisation "Human Rights First" – the Society for Protecting and Defending Human Rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is facing obstacles to her freedom of expression. This NGO is the country's only independent human rights organisation, which the government has refused to license.

Already, in August 2004, she was detained by the police for standing on a street in Khobar with a placard advocating for women's rights. On September 20, 2006, she was summoned at her home and brought by Saudi police officers to the Ministry of Interior, in Alkhubar City (Eastern Province), where she was interrogated about her human rights activities during the last four years. Allegedly, she was forced to sign a writing pledge where she promised to stop her human rights activities. She was also threatened by the police officers that she would lose her job at Aramco, the Saudi National Company, if she broke this pledge.

In addition, Ms. Wahija Alhowaider was also banned from travelling abroad. Indeed, after her interrogation on September 20, 2006, she tried to return to Bahrain, where she lives with her fourteen-year old son, but she was stopped by the Saudi authorities and told she was banned from travelling abroad. Finally, on September 28, 2006, she was allowed to return to Bahrain, after officials lifted the ban.

Your Excellency,

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about these obstacles to freedoms of expression and movement against these human rights defenders, which are in flagrant violation of their right "to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels" as provided by Article 1 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

As a consequence, the Observatory calls upon the Saudi authorities to put en end to any kind of reprisals against human rights defenders, as well as to conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular above-mentioned article 1 and article 12.2, which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or 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".

More generally, the Observatory urge the authorities to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards ratified by Saudi Arabia, all the more that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was elected on May 9, 2006 as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In the hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account,

We remain,

FIDH President OMCT Director

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