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Home » Reports » The recent arrest of two female activists Israa Ghamgam and Samar Badawi, signalsa serious deterioration freedom of expression andthe dignity of womenin Saudi Arabia

The recent arrest of two female activists Israa Ghamgam and Samar Badawi, signalsa serious deterioration freedom of expression andthe dignity of womenin Saudi Arabia

human rights defender Samar Badawi

human rights defender Samar Badawi

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On Tuesday 12th January 2016, the Saudi authorities arrested human rights defender Samar Badawi on the basis of her human rights activities, which Saudi Arabia still considers iscrime that is worthy of a trial in the Specialized Criminal Court, a court which is being usedto try both the terrorists and human rights defenders, based on the new counter-terrorism laws (Laws of terrorism and its financing).

On the 6th January 2016, Ms. Samar Badawi received a call demanding her attendance the next day at the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution in the city of Jeddah.

However, the next day she received a call to postpone and the deadline was extended until Sunday 10th January.

Last Sunday she received a call postponing the appointment to Tuesday, asking her to be accompanied by a man as per the guardianship laws in place in Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday morning she attended the appointment accompanied by her infant daughter, and her son (15 years old) at the Department of Criminal Investigation (which deals with a range of inbestigations), and there she were transferred to a center (by the safety police), and was escorted there in a police car with her daughter, but they refused to allow her son to accompany her. The main charge against Samar Badawi was ‘to incite public opinion against the state’, as well as a charge of managing the twitter accountof human rights defender Walid Abu al-Khair, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment based on of his defence of human rights. Also Ms. Badawi was chargedwith uploading a recent image of Walid Abu al-Khair with another members of the ACPRA association, thehuman rights defender Fawzan Al-Harbi. Detective also condemned her on two tweets related to praising the exit of Mohammed Bejadi from prison, whilst the second tweet expressed feelings about the lack of freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia saying: ‘silence murderer .. But the steadfastness’.

The investigation ended at 14:30, with the decision to send her to the new Criminal Dhahban prison wherethey have also detained Waleed Abu al-Khair, and her brother Raif Badawi who is sentenced 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes. She waited at the police station a few hours until the security of women arrived to transport her at 20:30,as she was due to face an investigation by the Investigation and Prosecution Authority the following day, on Wednesday 13th January.

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), confirms that the victimization of Ms. Samar Badawi by the public prosecutor is likely, as the Investigation and Prosecution Authority is linkedto the Ministry of Interior (MOI), as according to the first provision of its charter, it sought to ‘Establish a body called the Investigation and Prosecution Authority System, which will be linked to the MOI and whose budget is derived from the Ministry’s budget’.

This contrasts other systems, which are based on a separation of legislative, executive and judicial authorities, where the public prosecution is a subsidiary of the judiciary, however, in Saudi Arabia, it is a subsidary executive branch.

This makes the body a tool at the disposal of the Ministry of Interior, which is known to be at the core of many human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. Fears continue to rise for Mrs. Badawi, as the new terrorism and its financing system laws give to the Minister of Interior the following powers:

  • Article 4 ‘The interior minister can order the arrest of those suspected of committing the offenses set forth in this system, and he may delegate who sees in accordance with regulations prescribed’.
  •   Article 7 ‘there may not be any provisional release of the accused except by order of the Interior Minister or his authorized representative’.
  • Article 24 ‘The interior minister, for various reasons, can release the arrested or sentenced in any of the offenses set forth in this system during the execution of the sentence’.

These provisions suggest that the release of Samar Badawi (on bail) is not due to the adhering to due process principles, but to the Minister of the Interior and his powers defined by the new terrorism law, which are increasingly being used in the trial of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

Activist Samar Badawi has suffering ongoing harassment because of her human rights activities. On 2nd December2014, the Saudi authorities prevented her from traveling (without production of a warrant), whilst planning to participate in the sixteenth EU forum on human rights non-governmental organizations in Brussels, which she had been invited to attend.

This was followed by months of investigation sessions where she was asked to pledge to refrain from engaging in any activity or else be liable to prosecution and imprisonment. Badawi’s travel ban came after her participation at the 24th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where shespoke out and exposed the human rights situation in the Kingdom and demanded the release of Walid Abu al-Khair and all prisoners of conscience.

ESOHR believes that the arbitrary arrest of Badawi confirms the insistence of the Saudi government to criminalize various forms of freedom of expression, and deliberately ignores international demands calling for respect for freedom of expression.

This includes the statement in which eight esteemed experts from the United Nations, unanimously warned of increased repression of freedoms in Saudi Arabia and demanded action from authorities to protect them. In addition, the activist Israa Ghamgam hasbeen detained fro 35 days in Investigation Dammam prison since her arrest on the 8th December 2015, which it appears is based charges related to participation in the protests.

She was arrested with her husband, Musa Ja’far Al-Hashem, after the security forces raided their apartment and detained them without the knowledge of their family or anyone else. The family was very shocked after going to their apartment and witnessing the aftermath of the raid, with their possessions scattered everywhere. The arrest of Ms. Ghamgam, came after a group of women activists were arrested such as: Semitic Othman Bader, Umm Ammar Reshoudiand Ms. Bahia Reshoudi Solomon, who spent eight months in prison and confirms a dangerous trend of humiliating the dignity of women in Saudi Arabia.

The new terrorism laws givesthe Interior Minister absolute power to carry out such raids such as degrading house raid that targeted the flat activist Israa Ghamgam. Such house raids are considered a grave violation of privacy in very conservative Saudi society: Article 16: ‘The Minister of Interior, or officials acting on his behalf, have the permission to enter homes and offices to search and arrest people on any charges relating to an offense set forth in this system at any time within the period specified in the warrant’.

The Saudi European Organization for Human Rights confirms that the activist Samar Badawi and activist Israa Alghmama are prisoners of conscience, and that their arrest confirms a dangerous trend towards the degrading of the dignity of women in Saudi Arabia and their freedom of expression, which is to be added to the already systematic violations suffered by women within the kingdom.

ESOHR demands that the Saudi authorities immediately release activists Israa Alghmam and Samar Badawi, and all detainees who have been detained on the basis of freedom of opinion and expression.