Since Mohammed bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince in June 2017, Saudi Arabia has steadily transformed into a repressive police state par excellence. A new era of massive violations of the civil and human rights of women human rights defenders, including bloggers, Internet activists and the general public, has begun, and restrictions on diverse opinions have become a reality as documented in this appeal by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).
Presidency of State Security used against human rights movement
The rise of the Crown Prince, on 20 July 2017, was followed by the establishment of a new repressive security apparatus, the Presidency of State Security, by order of King Abdullah, which includes all the security forces, and is linked to the Prime Minister, that is, the King himself. Due to his illness, the King transferred most of his powers to Mohammed bin Salman, who has used the security apparatus to dismantle the human rights movement in Saudi Arabia, confiscate public freedoms, including freedom of expression online and offline for citizens and expatriates, and intimidate women and human rights defenders.
Ten Nubian Citizens remain in prison awaiting verdicts
Once again, 10 detained Egyptian Nubian citizens are facing a difficult time as they await their sentencing hearing in Saudi Arabia, after being detained for more than two years in violation of their right to peaceful assembly. They have lived for many years in Saudi Arabia.
On 31 August 2022, the Specialised Criminal Court held a session that was scheduled to be the last in order to pronounce the verdict in the trial of the ten citizens. The Public Prosecution claimed that it had new evidence and proceeded to re-interrogate them during this session, without the presence of their families or lawyers, who were not allowed to enter the courtroom. The court set 28 September 2022 as the new sentencing date.
Adel Sayed Ibrahim Fakir, 65 years, current head of the Nubian community in Riyadh, who is from the village of Ballana in southern Egypt. He is an accountant.
Dr. Farajallah Ahmed Yousif, 64 years, former head of the Nubian community in Riyadh.
Jamal Abdullah Masri, head of the Dahmit Nubian Village Association in Riyadh.
Mohammed Fathallah Jumaa, 37 years, member of the Dahmit Nubian Village Association in Riyadh. He is an IT engineer.
Hashim Shater, member of the Dahmit Nubian Village Association in Riyadh.
Ali Jumaa Ali Bahr, 37 years, member of the Dahmit Nubian Village Association in Riyadh.
Saleh Jumaa Ahmed, member of the Dahmit Nubian Village Association in Riyadh.
Abdulsalam Juma Ali, member of the Dahmit Nubian Village Association in Riyadh.
Abdullah Jumaa Ali Bahr, 43 years, President of the Dahmit Nubian Village Association in Riyadh.
Wael Ahmed Hassan, 54 years, head of the Thomas Nubian Village Association in Riyadh.
GCHR condemns in the strongest terms the continued detention and trial on false charges of ten Egyptian citizens, who were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for more than a year before their trial started, and calls on the Saudi authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.
Women human rights defenders falsely charged with terrorism
The Saudi authorities have consistently charged human rights defenders with terrorism despite their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. The Saudi authorities have used the Specialised Criminal Court, which was established in 2008 to hear cases of terrorism, as a tool to put human rights activists and reform advocates in prisons with heavy sentences and false charges. Thus, those who hold other free opinions that differ from the government’s opinion are in grave danger and are treated as terrorists despite their earnest efforts to build a society in which social justice and respect for human rights prevail.
Reliable local reports recently received by GCHR confirmed that Internet activist Dr. Lina Al-Sharif is still arbitrarily detained, and is being investigated on terrorism charges because of her peaceful activities on social media. At the end of May 2021, members of the Presidency of State Security broke into her family home and arrested her arbitrarily. They forcibly disappeared her for two months, when she was transferred on 26 July 2021 to Al-Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh, where she is still being held.
Unprecedented heavy judgements
On 09 August 2022, the Specialised Criminal Court issued a 34-year prison sentence and a travel ban for the same period of time after the completion of her sentence against human rights defender Salma Al-Shehab. Later that same month, the court issued a 45-year prison sentence for Internet activist Nourah Al-Qahtani, who also received a travel ban for the same period after the completion of her sentence against. They were convicted for their peaceful online activity under the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Anti-Cybercrime Law. These are the longest sentences ever issued against any peaceful activist in Saudi Arabia.
There is no doubt that these rulings, which lack the minimum international standards for fair trial and legal procedures, are in fact a threatening and intimidating message, sent by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to all Internet activists who, in a civil and peaceful way, express opinions in support of human rights in the country. If they defend the civil and human rights of citizens, they are being warned that the consequences will be dire, and they will be treated very harshly.
Young girls assaulted in an orphanage
On 31 August 2022, videos and photos spread on social media networks of the security forces raiding the Social Education House for Orphan Girls in the Khamis Mushait Governorate which is located in the Asir region, where they severely assaulted young girls because of their peaceful sit-in to demand an improvement in their conditions.
These repeated targeting of women and girls confirm the lack of seriousness of the Saudi government in protecting the civil and human rights of women in Saudi Arabia, where the security forces are allowed to override basic rights whenever they want without being subject to any real accountability.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the Saudi authorities to:
Release all those detained in violation of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and end the extreme sentencing of online activists;
Ensure that security forces refrain from using violence against peaceful protests; and
Uphold international standards of human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.