Saudi Arabia: Authorities are responsible for Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid’s passing

24/04/2020
Press release

Paris-Geneva, April 24, 2020 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) is shocked and deeply saddened by the passing while in custody of Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, co-founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). The Observatory strongly denounces that Dr. Al-Hamid was denied the medical attention that could have saved him.

This morning, Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, 69-years-old, passed away at the hospital. At the beginning of January 2020, already in a bad health condition, he had been transferred to the hospital, where the doctor told him that he urgently needed a heart operation. Prison authorities took Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid back to prison arguing that he would have his operation at the end of May-beginning of June 2020. On April 9, 2020, Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid was transferred from Riyadh’s Al-Ha’ir prison to the intensive care unit of a hospital after falling into a coma.

“The Saudi authorities are to be held responsible for the death of Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, as they repeatedly denied him the heart surgery and the medical attention he urgently needed” , said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). “The Observatory has long denounced Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid’s arbitrary detention, as well as the acts of torture and ill-treatment he suffered while in prison”.

“Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid was a poet and professor of Arabic, a free voice who worked on advancing human rights in his country. His death while in detention shows undeniably that authorities are neglecting the health of prisoners, which in a times of Covid-19 pandemic raises extremely serious questions” , said Shawan Jabarin, FIDH Secretary General.

The Observatory recalls the words of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, “Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid was serving an 11 years arbitrary prison sentence since March 2013, when he was convicted by Riyadh Specialised Criminal Court on charges related to his work with ACPRA. He was sentenced to five years of imprisonment, in addition to a previous sentence of six years that was upheld. He also received a travel ban equal to the length of his prison sentence. The court dissolved ACPRA and confiscated its assets, on the accusation that its founders failed to obtain an official license for their organisation. Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid was detained in al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh.

The Observatory recalls that all of ACPRA’s 11 founding members have been prosecuted, sentenced to prison for periods ranging from 5 to 15 years, and subjected to severe treatment by the Saudi authorities for their human rights activities and cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

For further information, please contact:
· FIDH: Mr. Samuel Hanryon (English, French), +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
· OMCT: Ms. Iolanda Jaquemet +41 79 539 41 06 / Email : ij@omct.org (Geneva)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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