Blogger Raif Badawi subjected to corporal punishment

15/01/2015
Urgent Appeal
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The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that Raif Badawi, blogger and creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, received 50 lashes outside Al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.

SAU 001 / 0514 / OBS 048.1
Arbitrary detention / Sentencing in appeal /
Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment
Saudi Arabia
January 15, 2015

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that on January 9, 2015, Mr. Raif Badawi, blogger and creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, received 50 lashes outside Al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah. He had been sentenced for promoting freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia.

On September 1, 2014, the Jeddah Court of Appeal upheld the sentence issued against him in May 2014 (see background information). He had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes, a 10-year travel ban to start on expiration of his jail sentence, a ban on using media outlets and a fine of one million Saudi Riyals (200,000 €). The Ministry of Interior has given orders for Raif Badawi to receive the 1000 lashes over 20 weeks in public outside Al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah during 20 sessions of 50 lashes each.

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the use of corporal punishment as a criminal sanction and recalls Saudi Arabia has adhered to the Convention Against Torture in 1997, which prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Observatory calls on the Saudi authorities to immediately halt the lashes, drop all charges and release Raif Badawi, as his conviction is aimed at preventing him from carrying out his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities in Saudi Arabia.

Background information:

On May 7, 2014, the Jeddah Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Raif Badawi to 10 years of imprisonment, 1,000 lashes and a fine of one million riyals (200,000 €) for “insulting Islam and religious authorities”. This verdict is the outcome of continuous judicial harassment targeting the human right defender since he created at the beginning of 2006 the website Free Saudi Liberals. This liberal blog promoted freedom of expression and fostered public debate about religion in Saudi Arabia, but was closed by the authorities in July 2013.

Mr. Raif Badawi is kept in detention in the Jeddah prison since his arrest on June 17, 2012. He was tried for apostasy – punishable by death penalty in Saudi Arabia – and setting up an illegal website. Pursuant to those charges, he was initially sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes by the District Court in Jeddah on July 29, 2013. However, the verdict cleared him from the capital sentence encompassed by the charge of apostasy.

With the help of his lawyer, he appealed against his conviction. On December 12, 2013, the Court of Appeals quashed the first instance verdict and sent the case back to retrial. Eventually, the Jeddah Criminal Court handed down a harsher sentence by increasing the prison term to 10 years and the number of lashes to 1,000.

As Saudi Arabia adopted a new anti-terrorist law in 2014 hostile to human rights defenders [1], the conviction of Mr. Raif Badawi appears as one of many attempts to silence human rights activists in the country.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Raif Badawi, as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, specifically by suspending the pending sessions of lashes;

ii. Quash the conviction and sentencing of Mr. Raif Badawi, which only serves to prevent him from carrying out his peaceful human rights work, and release him immediately and unconditionally, as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Raif Badawi and all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;

iv. Put an end to the use of corporal punishment as a criminal sanction in order to comply with its international human rights obligations.

v. Comply in all circumstances with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its:

Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. Comply with the provisions of the Arab Charter, in particular its article 32 which protects “the right to information, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, freedom to seek, receive and impart information by all means, regardless of frontiers”.

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratify international and regional human rights instruments and harmonise its domestic law with international human rights instruments.

Addresses:

His Majesty, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Office of His Majesty the King, Royal Court, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125
H.E. Shaykh Dr Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Issa, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, University Street, Riyadh 11137, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: + 966 11 401 1741 / + 966 11 402 0311
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Minister of Interior, Ministry of the Interior, P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: +966 11 403 3125
H.E. Mr. Faisal Bin Hassan Trad, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Route de Lausanne 263, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 00 00. Email: saudi.mission.ch@mofa.gov.sa
H.E. Mr. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Brussels, Avenue Franklin Rosevelt, 45 1050 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.

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