Saudi Arabia: Arbitrary detention of Ms. Noha Al-Balawi

08/02/2018
Urgent Appeal

SAU 002 / 0218 / OBS 018
Incommunicado detention /
Judicial harassment
Saudi Arabia
February 8, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Saudi Arabia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by Al Qst about the arrest and ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms. Noha Al-Balawi, an online advocate for civil and political rights. In particular, she has advocated for women’s right to drive, the abolition of the male guardianship and solidarity with prisoners of conscience, via videos and tweets. She also participated in the "no taxation without representation" online campaign that started after the authorities announced the enforcement of an upcoming value-added tax regime.

According to the information received, on January 23, 2018 at noon, the Saudi authorities detained a relative of Ms. Noha Al-Balawi. The relative was released later, after Ms. Al-Balawi had accepted to report before the Department of Investigation and Prosecution Authority in Tabuk. On the same day at 1.30 pm, she went to the police station and was arrested and placed in detention.

The authorities questioned her on tweets and videos she had posted, including on a video in which she supports the driving campaign for women and shows solidarity with the prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia [1]. She was also questioned about her connections with the successful campaign on women’s right to drive, and with the women’s rights and human rights movement in Saudi Arabia generally. According to the investigating officer, she is charged under Article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which states that "the punishment for any person who creates or transmits anything prejudicial to public order shall be a prison term of up to five years and/or a fine of up to three million riyals (approx EUR 652,273)".

On February 5, 2018, her detention was renewed for another 35 days. As of now, no lawyer has been representing Ms. Noha Al-Balawi. She is detained in the general prison of Tabuk, yet no information could be collected on her condition of detention. On February 6, 2018, she started a hunger strike.

According to reliable sources, since her arrest the authorities have been putting out misleading messages to the effect that Ms. Noha al-Balawi would not be held in detention but is free and at home. Then they promised to release Ms. Noha al-Balawi within the first five days, in a seemingly attempt to silence public opinion and expression of solidarity.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention of Ms. Noha Al-Balawi, which only seem to aim at sanctioning her peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, and fears that the authorities intend to hand down a harsh sentence against her in the absence of any oversight. The Observatory urges Saudi authorities to release Ms. Noha Al-Balawi immediately and unconditionally and to put an end to all acts of harassment against her as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Saudi Arabia asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Noha Al-Balawi as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Noha Al Balawi, as well as all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Noha Al-Balawi and all human rights defenders in the country so they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;

iv. Comply in all circumstances with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments.

Addresses:

" His Majesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email: info@moi.gov.sa; Twitter: @KingSalman
" His Excellency, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email: info@moi.gov.sa
" H.E. Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister of Justice, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email: info@moj.gov.sa
" His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: + 966 11 401 1111 / + 966 11 401 1944 / + 966 11 403 1125; Email: info@moi.gov.sa
" H.E. Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ; Email: info@mofa.gov.sa
" H.E. Abdulaziz Alwasil, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 00 00. Email: saudiamission@bluewin.ch
" H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email: beemb@mofa.gov.sa

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Saudi Arabia in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, February 8, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
" E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
" Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80
" Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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