Saudi Arabia: Confirmation of the conviction of two Saudi Arabian women’s rights defenders, Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fawzia Al-Uyuni, sentenced to ten months imprisonment and a two-year travel ban

10/10/2013
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory was informed of the recent confirmation of the conviction of two Saudi Arabian women’s rights defenders, Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fawzia Al-Uyuni, sentenced to ten months imprisonment and a two-year travel ban.

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.

Brief description of the situation:

According to information received, on June 15, 2013, following months of interrogation and deprivation of their liberty and freedom of movement, Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fawzia Al-Uyuni were convicted and sentenced by the Criminal Court in Al-Khubar to 10 months in prison followed by a two-year travel ban. The two filed an appeal, but on September 15, 2013, the Court of Appeal in Dammam upheld the first instance judgement.

The activists are currently awaiting the official notice of their conviction and sentence, in order to file a further appeal before the Court of Cassation. At the time of writing, they were not in detention.

Both activists were arrested on June 6, 2011 by security forces while on their way to visit a Canadian woman married to a Saudi national, who reported that she was being abused. The woman had published calls for help on her blog and sent a text message to the activists informing them that her husband had locked her up in the house with her children, without food, for five days while he was away. The husband alleged that the activists were helping his wife and children to flee the country, although he did not make a formal complaint, and was with the security forces at the time of the arrest.

Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fawzia Al-Uyuni were subsequently tried before the Criminal Court in Al-Khubar, on charges of with kidnapping. However, when they requested that the alleged victim be allowed to testify, the court substituted the charge of kidnapping with that of takhbib, a Sharia law offence of inciting a wife to defy the authority of her husband or inciting a slave/servant to defy the authority of his/her master. The court refused to allow the defendants to call witnesses, including the alleged victim and social workers familiar with her case.

The Observatory expresses deep concern at the conviction and sentencing of Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fowzia Al-Oyuni, which seems to be aimed at preventing their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities in Saudi Arabia. The Observatory also expresses concern at the above-mentioned fair trial irregularities, including the refusal to hear the crucial testimony of witnesses. Furthermore, the offence of takhbib is contrary to international human rights standards and in particular, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by Saudi Arabia in 2000.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fawzia Al-Uyuni as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Quash the conviction and sentencing of Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fowzia Al-Oyuni, which only serves to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate and peaceful women’s rights work;

iii. Release unconditionally and/or refrain from arresting and detaining Ms. Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Ms. Fawzia Al-Uyuni;

iv. Refrain from any acts of harassment and intimidation, including at judicial level, against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

v. Comply 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 9 December 1998; in particular with 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. Abolish the offence of takhbib and all other discriminatory laws and implement all recommendations issued by the UN CEDAW Committee in February 2008;

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

- His Excellency, 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

- His Excellency Ambassador Abdulwahab Abdulsalam Attar, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Office and other international organisations in Geneva, Route de Lausanne 236, 1292 Chambésy, Fax. +41 22 758 00 00, Email : saudiamission@bluewin.ch

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Saudi Arabia in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, October 10, 2013

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a 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.


To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: appeals@fidh-omct.org

· 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

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