Saudi Arabia: Israa Al-Ghomgham no longer facing death penalty

Urgent Appeal

New information
SAU 006 / 0818 / OBS 105.2
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Saudi Arabia
February 5, 2019

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 ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, a human 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 [1].

According to the information received, on January 31, 2019, the authorities confirmed in a public statement that they would not seek the imposition of the death penalty against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, prosecuted for “illegal protests” before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) [2] together with five other defendants [3].

On January 13, 2019, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham was due to appear before the SCC for the fourth time, but the hearing was postponed over internal restructuring of the Court. The Prosecutor had called to apply the death penalty against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham in her first hearing (see background information), making her the first female human rights defender to eventually be executed in Saudi Arabia.

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham remains detained in Al-Dhamam General Intelligence Prison and the same charges are still pending against her. Four of her five male co-defendants are still facing death penalty. The new hearing date has not been publicised yet.

On October 12, 2018, United Nations Special Procedures expressed their concern over Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham arbitrary detention and threats of death penalty [4].

The Observatory reiterates 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, and as she failed to appear to her precedent hearings.

The Observatory recalls that many other female human rights defenders face arbitrary detention and judicial harassment in Saudi Arabia.

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham and all the human rights defenders in the country, and calls on Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them.

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 since then.

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.

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

On November 21, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham once again failed to appear before the SCC for the third hearing while the five other defendants were present. The reasons for her non-attendance remain unknown.

The third session was devoted to the presentation of the defence of the accused. Three of the accused could present their defence 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”.

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, February 5, 2019
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] 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.
[2] The SCC was originally set up in 2009 to prosecute those with direct links to terrorist acts. It is part of the Ministry of the Interior rather than the Ministry of Justice, placing it firmly within the national security sphere. This jurisdiction has been dealing with cases affecting “national security”. It is used by the Saudi government to crush peaceful dissent from human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists.
[3] The five others are 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.

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