Saudi Arabia: WHRD Israa Al-Ghomgham arbitrarily detained, facing death penalty threat

22/08/2018
Urgent Appeal

SAU 006 / 0818 / OBS 105
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment /
Threat of being sentenced to death
Saudi Arabia
August 22, 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 arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, a human rights activist, from the region of Qatif, a eastern coastal city with a Shia majority.

According to the information received, on August 15, 2018, the Saudi public prosecution called for sentencing Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham to the death penalty during the first court session before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh -set up to try terrorism cases- against her and five other activists1 following 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. The next hearing is scheduled for October 31, 2018.

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.

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham was arbitrarily arrested on December 6, 2015, after the Saudi authorities launched a raid at her home, arbitrarily arresting her and her husband. They have been detained in Dammam’s al-Mabahith prison until now.

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham and urges the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release her as well as the other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, as her criminalisation only seems to aim at sanctioning her for her peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

Calling for the death penalty sentence constitutes an extremely dangerous precedent as it is the first time the death penalty is called for against a female human rights defender in the country, raising fears about possible harsh reprisals against other women human rights defenders arbitrarily detained.

Actions requested:

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

i. 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;
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. 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;
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.

Addresses:
 
• 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: info@moi.gov.sa; 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: info@moi.gov.sa
• H.E. Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister of Justice, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email: info@moj.gov.sa
• 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: info@moi.gov.sa
• H.E. Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ; Email: info@mofa.gov.sa
• 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: saudiamission@bluewin.ch
• H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email: beemb@mofa.gov.sa

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, August 22, 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 ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
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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