Saudi Arabia: Sentencing of Messrs. Abdullah Al-Attawi and Mohamed Al-Otaibi

Urgent Appeal

SAU 001 / 0118 / OBS 012
Sentencing /
Arbitrary detention
Saudi Arabia
January 30, 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 reliable sources about the sentencing of Messrs. Abdullah Al-Attawi and Mohamed Al-Otaibi, two founders of the Union for Human Rights, as well as about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi.

According to the information received, on January 25, 2018, Section 12 of the Specialised Criminal Court [1] sentenced Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi to fourteen and seven years in prison respectively, under a series of charges, including: “participating in setting up an organisation and announcing it before getting an authorisation”, “dividing national unity”, “spreading chaos and inciting public opinion by preparing, drafting and publishing statements that are harmful to the reputation of the Kingdom and its judicial and security institutions”, “opposing judicial decisions”, “formulating data aimed at disrupting security”, “participating in a hunger strike”, and “publishing information about their interrogations despite signing pledges to refrain from doing so”.

Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi was facing additional charges of “disseminating information about an investigation”, “abusing the Kingdom via Twitter”, “calling to change the basic system of governance” as well as “spreading harmful information about Saudi Arabia via a satellite channel”.

Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi’s trial started on October 30, 2016 and all charges relate to the Union for Human Rights, a human rights association set up in 2013 and almost immediately shut down by the Saudi authorities [2].

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi are being judicially harassed by the Saudi authorities, and that Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi remains detained at the Intelligence Prison in Al-Damam since May 2017 (see background information). As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Abdullah Al-Attawi remained free.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the sentencing of Messrs. Abdullah Al-Attawi and Mohamed Al-Otaibi and the arbitrary detention of the latter, which only seem to aim at sanctioning their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. Consequently, the Observatory urges Saudi authorities to release Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi immediately and unconditionally and to put an end to all acts of harassment against him and Mr. Abdullah Al-Attawi as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

Background information [3]:

Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi was first arrested on January 1, 2009, charged with “attempting to initiate a peaceful demonstration” to protest the Gaza war and subsequently sentenced on these charges to three years in prison. He served three years and seven months in prison before he was finally released on June 10, 2012.

In April 2013, Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi co-founded the Union for Human Rights in Riyadh and applied for registration. Less than a month after the first position papers of the organisation were published on social networks by the Union for Human Rights [4], a criminal enquiry on the above-mentioned charges was launched against them. In May 2013, Saudi authorities rejected the application for registration of the Union for Human Rights and sought undertakings from the founders that they would dissolve the association and desist from carrying on its activities.

In March 2014, Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi were summoned by Saudi authorities and as a result both pledged to stop issuing statements, reports, or participating in TV interviews.

In 2015, following the publication of the Law on Associations and Foundations, Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi filed an application to register the Union for Human Rights. Their application was rejected and proceedings against them upheld.

On October 30, 2016, the trial of Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi opened before the Specialised Criminal Court on the basis of the charges brought against them in 2013.

In February 2017, Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi managed nonetheless to flee to Qatar. On May 24, 2017, on his way to Norway where he had been granted refugee status, he was arrested at Hamad International Airport in Doha and deported to Saudi Arabia the following day. He has been in prison ever since.

A hearing scheduled to take place on July 12, 2017 was postponed to August 8, 2017 and further to January 25, 2018.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Mohamed Al-Otaibi, 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 Messrs. Mohamed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Attawi 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.


· 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 Majesty, 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 Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, 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 representations of Saudi Arabia in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, January 30, 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, 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 (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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