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Waleed Abu al-Khair: UN Continues to Demand His Release and Saudi Arabia continue to intransigent

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The United Nations Special Procedures have submitted yet another inquiry to the Government of Saudi Arabia regarding the case of Waleed Abu al-Khair. Their communication cited UN concerns that al-Khair had been subjected to serious human rights violations, including those concerning his right to a fair trial, to not be arbitrarily arrested, and to be free from torture.

Mr. al-Khair’s case is a well-known example of how Saudi Arabia abuses and tortures its human rights defenders. Al-Khair began his career as a human rights defender in 2007, when he, along with several other activists, sent a letter to the Government of Saudi Arabia demanding the creation of a constitutional monarchy. Shortly afterwards, he began working as a defence attorney in the trials of several prominent human rights defenders, including Dr. Saud al-Hashimi and Dr. Mossa al-Qarni. His work eventually led him to the defence of Raif Badawi, another award-winning Saudi activist. Shortly after defending Badawi, the Saudi government banned al-Khair from traveling, thereafter arresting him in 2014. His case, marred by significant allegations of torture and ill-treatment and brought against him for his practising of protected human rights, resulted in a sentence of 15 years in prison.

This is not at all the first time that the United Nations has taken on Mr. al-Khair’s case. In December 2017, the UN Experts wrote to Saudi Arabia requesting that the government explain its detention of a number of Saudi activists, including Mr. al-Khair. That communication, too, raised allegations of torture, denial of access to justice, and arbitrary arrest and prosecution. A July 2016 communication raised similar concerns. A pair of communications from 2014 specifically concern the case of Mr. al-Khair, with the earliest of them appealing to the Saudi government to take “all necessary measures to guarantee his right not to be arbitrarily deprived of his liberty and to fair proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal…” The earliest case concerning Mr. al-Khair goes back as far as May 2012, when the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention expressed for the first time its concerns that Mr. al-Khair had been subjected to treatment amounting to torture.

We at ESOHR stand with the UN Human Rights Rapporteurs in calling for the Government to guarantee Waleed Abu al-Khair’s human rights, including his right to be free from torture and arbitrary detention. We demand that his sentence be immediately vacated on the grounds that it violates his protected human rights, and that the government release him and all other human rights defenders imprisoned for demonstrating against the government

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