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Violating UN pledges by Applying Vague Laws and Unspecialized Court, the Saudi Court Jailed a Human Rights Defender to 15-year

Waleed_Abu_Alkhair

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On July 6th of 2014, the Criminal Court (SCC) from its summer location in Jeddah sentenced the prominent Saudi lawyer and human rights defender Waleed Abulkhair to 15-year; a fine of 200,000 Saudi riyals, around $53,000 dollars, and 15-year travel ban after his release. He was also ordered to close all websites and online accounts that he is affiliated with, in the second case, which began the first session October 6th of 2013.
The court ruling was based on:

First: The Anti-Cyber Saudi Law, which issued under the Council of Ministers Decision No. 79, dated 7/3/1428H and it was approved by Royal Decree No. M / 17, dated 8/3/1428H (26/03/2007). Under this law, many human rights activists; demonstrators and journalists have been prosecuted and jailed. Specifically, and mainly based on Article 6  and Article 13, where Article 13 was used against Abulkhair during the prosecution. This law articles is not in compliance with international human rights and standards, as it was stipulated in the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders by the United Nations in February 27th of 2013 . Also, this law has been criticized by the international human rights organizations due to its clear violations of international standards.

Second: The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, which took effect on 31/01/2014 after it was approved by royal decree on 27/12/2013. Article 21 of this law was used against Abulkhair 3.
Third: The Travel Document Law, which issued by Royal Decree dated 28/08/2000, used Article 6, second paragraph .

The official Saudi Press Agency published an article about Abulkhair’s case and the court ruling, while Abulkhair and his lawyer refuse to receive the rule report. This ruling was also based on Tazir , which is still used by the Saudi judiciary. This law means that the judge ruled is according to his personal discretion rather than a list of specific sanctions. Therefore, the ruling itself may differ from one judge to another. And based on these standards, Abulkhair was sentenced to 15-year.

The public prosecutor accused Abulkhair with five main charges, as follow:
Attempt to disapprove the state legitimacy, breaking allegiance with the guardian legitimacy (Wali AL-Amr), questioning the officials’ integrity and inciting public opinion against them.
Insulting and derogating the country’s judiciary committee, publiclymugging their integrity and the system, falsely describing them as an unjust/dishonest and violating human rights.
Speaking to the foreign media and organizations with the intention of harming the country’s reputation by making false and undocumented statements.
Founder of and run illegally as an unlicensed organization, Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA). Also, cofounder of another unlicensed organization, which is the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). These organizations falsely and publicly accused the executive government and legislature as being unjust, also, infringement with governmental civil institutions as Human Rights Commission, and the National Society for Human Rights.
Preparation, transmission and storage of material impinging on public order, according to the Saudi Anti-cyber Crime Law.

This is the second verdict to Abulkhair in less than nine months, where the former was sentenced to 3 months in prison. The following table shows the details of the two cases:

1stCase     2nd Case
Accusation    Insult the country’s judiciary-communicate with foreign organizations and media–demand a constitutional monarchy – to participate in the foreign media with the intention of harming the country’s reputation –to incite public opinion against the government    To disapprove the state legitimacy- to incite public opinion against the government – establishment of two human rights organizations-
– Communicate with foreign media and organizations
Trial Date    19/02/2012    06/10/2013
Sessions    17    10
Verdict    3 months    15-year in prison, 200,000 Riyals ($53k) fine, a15-year travel ban, and close all websites and accounts
Justification        Anti-Cyber Crime Law
Verdict date    29/10/2013    06/07/2014
Rule’s Status    Final, approved in 06/02/14    Not final
Court    The Criminal Court in Jeddah    The Specialized Criminal Court
The Judge    Abdul-Majeed Alshwihe    Yousef AlGhamdi

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) notices that Abulkhair’s two cases are similar in term of sharing some contexts, and this was even clarified by Abulkhair in his reply to the court. This explains that Abulkhair was targeted because of his peace and human rights activities and these two cases are not the only indicator:

While Abulkhair was preparing to attend a six-week fellowship program called Leaders for Democracy that sponsored b-y the United States Department of State at the University of Syracuse in New York State, the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution told him on 21/03/2012 that he is banned from travelling  .
In addition, he was detained for 24 hours in the eastern police station in Jeddah when he was called to come in 01/10/2013, where he was informed by a police officer that the detention order was issued by Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud, Emir of Makkah region. The detention is due to launching “unlicensed” forum, which “aims to destabilize and threaten the country”. No prior warrant; notification was issued nor investigation prior to these charges.
Also, Abulkhair disappeared for 24 hours in 15/04/204 as he was arbitrarily arrested with no prior warrant to him personally; his family or agents and since in detention. This detention happened after attending the fifth session of the second case with no clarifications from the judge, despite Abulkhair’s attempts to know the reasons.

The practiced prosecution process, as the arrest; detention and prosecution, carried out by the Saudi government in Abulkhair’s case show how hundreds of prisoners of conscience and human rights activists are being treated. There are lots of cases, in which covered by the ESOHR that shows continuous and systematic violations of human rights, local and international laws and treaties.
Mr. Abulkhair clarifies the illegality of his trial in his replied in the eighth session of the second case in 26/06/2014 , explaining that the lack of justice of his trial and that the judge is not characterized by neutrality.
The ESOHR clarifies that SCC where Abulkhair was prosecuted and sentenced five others, including demonstrators and one minor during the arrest to death last May and June, did not publish ​​its legal specialty as a court since establishment by Royal Decree No. (10810) in 26/12/2007. As a result, this gives the public prosecution’s subdivision in the Ministry of the Interior a limitless chance to transfer the cases to the SCC leaving the accused with no knowledge of the legal basis for his/her case nor the court specialty, therefore, has less chance to appeal.
This indicates the a clear legal abuse and how it deviates the legal prosecution processes toward the interest of the Attorney General, and thus, violates the principle of “Fair consideration of issues” as its the fundamental part of fair trials “everyone has the right to a fair trial where there are adequate protections and carried out by a competent, independent and impartial  ”.
Because of the illegitimacy of the court, Abulkhair and his agent refused to receive the verdict’s report and raised an objection. This means that the case’s documents will be transferred to the Court of Appeal without a formal objection by Abulkhair, as it represents his disapproval of this illegitimate trial.
We at the ESOHR express a deep concern about these arbitrarily prosecutions by the Saudi government on activists as sentencing death, or up to 25- 30- year and its recent prosecutions of defenders of human rights as: Fadel AlManasef 14-year, and Raef Badawi, 10-year; and Abdullah Alhamed 10-year; Mohammed AlQahtani 11-year, Mikhlif Alshammari 5-year and Zechariah AlSafwan 10 year and many others. All these prosecutions conflict with:
The international human rights law, which includes international and regional conventions/ treaties ratified by Saudi Arabia, which has the highest legal priority than local regulations to be applied.
As Saudi Arabia is an active member in the Human Rights Council that elected for three years until 2016, the adopted resolution by the General Assembly states “that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights  ”.
What presented by Saudi Arabia in the UPR, including what is mentioned in paragraph 27 “The Kingdom’s laws guarantees freedom of expression and of opinion for every human being  ”.
The accepted recommendations and conclusions provided by many countries in the Universal Periodic Review, United Nation (UN), including:
– “138.53. Bring its domestic legislation in line with the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and to enact and implement a law of association, enabling all NGOs to operate legally, without harassment and undue government interference (Czech Republic);
– 138.154. Take measures to foster an enabling environment for civil society, including through enacting and implementing before the next UPR a law on associations to allow for the legal creation and registration of independent civil society associations and organizations (Canada);
– 138.170. Ensure the victims of domestic abuse immediate access to mechanisms of protection and redress, inter alia, by providing the victims with shelters, by ensuring investigation of abuses, and by training law enforcement officials (Finland);
– 138.172. Further its endeavours with regard to the smooth and productive activities of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Standing Committee on Trafficking in Persons (Azerbaijan); 12 ”

The ESOHR demands the Saudi government the following:
The immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience.
Withdraw the SCC and drop the charges that have been used against the journalists; human rights defenders; prisoners of conscience and opponents.

Considering its position as an elected member in the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia has pledged to comply and committee to the Council’s standards.
Saudi Arabia provide voluntary pledges to the Council, specifically: “Should Saudi Arabia be selected as a member for the period 2014-2016, it pledges to continue to support tirelessly the work of the Human Rights Council. It will continue to adhere to Human Rights Council resolutions, cooperate with its mechanisms and actively participate in its work during its regular and special sessions and in the session of the Social Forum  ”.
Start immediately the implementation process of applying of what has been accepted and the recommendations received in the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in February 28th 2013, in which Saudi approved nearly 200 the recommendations.
Meanwhile, human rights violations are noticeably escalating with no positive signs indication of applying of what have been received and approved recommendations.
Start granting legal status and license for civil society institutions to activate civil action, and drop the charges related and criminalize civil works activates.
However, and as Saudi Arabia has approved two specific recommendations, which are:
“138.48. Accelerate the issuance of civil society regulations to activate civil work in the areas of protecting and promoting human rights and develop the capacities of the workers in the area of human rights and guarantee their work in freedom and independence (State of Palestine);
138.49. Adopt an NGO law which should take into account the views of civil society stakeholders and provide an enabling framework for the development of civil society in Saudi Arabia (Germany);
Yet, Saudi has charged and prosecuted Abulkhair with founding and running illegal/unlicensed organizations, founding and running MHRSA and cofounder of the ACPRA.