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UN Rapporteur on HUman rights defenders: Dangerous Practices Of Saudi Arabia To Silence Rights Defenders Despite Its Membership In HRC

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Mr. Michel Forst, The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, criticized Saudi Arabia’s practices with the UN mechanism regarding the arguments presented to justify its incompatible practices against human rights defenders with the international standards. In his annual report issued on the sidelines of the 37th session of HRC ( February 26th -March 23rd, 2018). The Rapporteur expressed his serious concerns over human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. Despite its membership in HRC (for the fourth time) Saudi Arabia continued its dangerous practices to silence human rights defenders and critical voices in society through arbitrary detention, arrests, and oppression. The rapporteur also pointed out that he noticed a growing in targeting them by legal procedures and administrative measures used to intimidate and obstruct them from exercising their rights.


Wave of Arrests

The Rapporteur denounced Saudi Arabia’s persistent use of counter- terror laws to target human rights defenders, writers, journalists, and academics in a “pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions.” He noted that adding to the past cases, including the Association of Civil and Political Rights “ Hasm”,  the government launched a wave of arrests against more than 60 prominent religious figures, writers, and activists.


Human Rights Women Defenders

The Rapporteur shows high concerns over a human rights woman defender case, who was detained in a care house as a retaliation for her role against guardianship laws. Where she was arrested in a charge of parental disobedience, which is considered by the Rapporteur as an evidence on discriminatory laws between genders; explaining that women rights defenders face double risk.


Terrorism Act

The Rapporteur raised the cases of Issa Al-Nakayfi, Issam Koshak, Mohamad Al-Otaibi, Abdullah Al-Attawi, Issa Al-Hamed and two Sudanese human rights defenders, Imam Al- Walid and Mohammad SedKassem, noting that they are prosecuted or were condemned before the Specialized Criminal Court ( established to prosecute terrorists), which is used against human rights defenders and to restrict individual freedom, under the pretext of national security protection. The Rapporteur affirmed that Saudi Arabia must use transparent laws to define terrorist acts, ensure not to violate the fundamentalrights, and not to commit any arbitrary detention or violation of fair trials.


Civil Society & Corporation with UN bodies

The Rapporteur expressed high concerns on Issa Al-Nakhayfi case, who was arrested for his activity on social media and his contacts with international rights organizations and UN representatives,and had been released from detention after nearly four years. The Rapporteur requested the Saudi government to stop all acts that appear to be a pattern of intimidation and retaliation against all individuals who collaborated or are seeking collaboration with the UN, including those that affect their families and harm long term cooperative targets between civil society and international community.

Furthermore, the Rapporteur affirmed that he believes that the operations of arrests and detentions appears to be a part of widespread pattern to convict human rights defenders, in an attempt to limit them from exercising their rights in establishingassociations, freedom of expression, and activism on internet.

The Rapporteur concluded in inviting Saudi government to eliminate any restrictions that put obstacles on legal activities of human rights defenders, and urged the government to guarantee that all the human rights defenders and activists who are facing cases in courts obtain fair and open trails before independent courts.

With regard to women rights defenders the Rapporteur requested the government to eliminate all the discriminatory laws, especially the guardianship law; also he urged the government to cancel all the laws that convict human rights defenders’ acts under the name of national security and counter-terror.

Moreover, the European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights mentioned that the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mr. Michel Forst’s report repeats the warning presented by previous reports, and reflects a growing in violations which prove Saudi government’s insistence on oppressing human rights defenders. The organisation believes that the government’s insistence is a sign of a need for more effective mechanism to protect human rights defenders and the collaborators with the international bodies and mechanisms in Saudi Arabia. The organisation noted that in February 2015 Saudi Arabia gave a preliminary approve on the visit of the Rapporteur Mr. Forst yet it still procrastinate in determining the deadline, for more than three years, under the growing detention and oppression human rights defenders.

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