Saudi Arabia: Incommunicado detention and judicial harassment of Israa Al-Ghomgham

Urgent Appeal

New information
SAU 006 / 0818 / OBS 105.1
Incommunicado detention /
Judicial harassment / Death penalty
Saudi Arabia
November 26, 2018

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the incommunicado detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, a women rights defender from the region of Qatif, an eastern coastal city with a Shia majority, after documenting and denouncing human rights violations during peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.

According to the information received, on November 21, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham once again failed to appear before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) [1] for the third hearing in the mass trial for “illegal protests” she is facing (see background information below) while the five other defendants, Mr. Ahmad bin Hussien Al-Matrood, Mr. Ali bin Ahmad Aweesheer, Mr. Mousa bin Jaafar al-Hashem (Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham’s husband), Mr. Khalid Bin Abed allah al-Ghanem and Mr. Moujtaba bin Ali al-Mazayan were present. The reasons for her non-attendance remain unknown.

The third session was devoted to the presentation of the defense of the accused. Three of the accused could present their defense and were told that their next hearing was scheduled for January 13, 2019. The other three accused, including Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, were told that they would have the opportunity to present their defense “in two months”.

On October 28, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham had already failed to appear before the SCC, during the second hearing. During this hearing, the accused could not present their defense as the hearing was abruptly cancelled for unknown reasons.

The Observatory expresses its deepest preoccupation regarding the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, especially as she does not have access to her relatives nor to her lawyer, who never got the authorization to meet with her before the hearings.

The Observatory also strongly condemns the lack of respect of her right to a fair trial as well as her ongoing incommunicado detention and judicial harassment.

The Observatory recalls that Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham faces charges punished by the death penalty and that the Prosecutor called for the application of the death penalty against her. This is the first time the death penalty is requested against a female human rights defender in the country, raising fears about the hardening of repression against other women human rights defenders in the country, where many are currently detained.

The Observatory urges the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham as well as all the other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, as their detention and judicial harassment only seems to aim at sanctioning them for their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

Background information:

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham was arbitrarily arrested on December 8, 2015, after the Saudi authorities launched a raid at her home, arbitrarily arresting her and her husband. Both have been detained in Dammam’s al-Mabahith prison until now.

On August 15, 2018, the Saudi Public Prosecution called the court to apply the death penalty against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, who was brought before the SCC in Riyadh along the five above-mentioned other activists for her first court session after 32 months of arbitrary detention. The Public Prosecution accused the six defendants of “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflame public opinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and “providing moral support to rioters”, charges that do not correspond to any codified crime. The Public Prosecution called for the death penalty based on the Islamic law principle of ta’zir, in which the judge has discretion over the definition of crimes and sentences. During this hearing, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham had no access to legal representation.

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham had taken part in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations since 2011, during the Arab Spring, documented mass demonstrations in the Eastern provinces, and called many times for the respect of freedom of assembly and expression, the release of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders and expressed her opinions on social media platforms.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Saudi Arabia, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham as well as of all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;
ii. Ensure Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham have unhindered access to her family and lawyers and respect in all circumstances her right to a fair trial;
iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham and end all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and 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;
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 ratified by Saudi Arabia.

• 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:; 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:
• H.E. Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister of Justice, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email:
• 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:
• H.E. Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ; Email:
• 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:
• H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Saudi Arabia in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Saudi Arabia.
Paris-Geneva, November 26, 2018
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] The SCC was originally set up in 2009 to prosecute those with direct links to terrorist acts. Today this jurisdiction has been dealing with cases affecting “national security” in the broadest sense of the term and de facto all cases deemed by the regime as “sensitive”. All individuals voicing criticisms against the administration and its policies, in particular human rights defenders, have been prosecuted before this court.

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