UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday expressed concern about the arbitrary arrest, trial and detention of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, including the recent conviction and harsh sentencing of human rights defender Waleed Abu Al-Khair.
The High Commissioner’s comments come days after Abu Al-Kahir was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a further 15-year travel ban, as well as a fine amounting to 200,000 Saudi riyal.
Ms Pillay stated that, “Abu Al-Kahir’s case is a clear illustration of the continuing trend of harassment of Saudi human rights defenders, several of who have been convicted for peacefully promoting human rights.”
Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a lawyer and head of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, an organisation which monitors and documents human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. The application to register the organisation as a human rights NGO was rejected. In 2012, the human rights defender was awarded the Olof Palme Memorial Fund Prize.
Just 3 days before Abu Al-Kahir’s sentencing, a court of appeal in Saudi Arabia reaffirmed the harsh sentencing of Mikhlif Al-Shammari.
Al-Shammari, a prominent journalist and writer, has been given a sentence which includes five years’ imprisonment, a ten-year travel ban, and a ban from writing for newspapers, websites, and appearing in media.
Commenting on the broader situation of human rights in Saudi Arabia, Ms Pillay stated that, “proceedings against human rights defenders in the Specialized Penal Court as well as in other courts in Saudi Arabia, have fallen short of international fair trial standards.”