HRC45: Saudi Arabia must stop its persecution of human rights defenders

On September 24th, during the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Right Livelihood Foundation, jointly with other three NGOs – Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, ALQST and MENA Rights Group – delivered a statement denouncing Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record. In particular, we condemned the arbitrary detention of Right Livelihood Laureates Mohammed al-Qahtani and Waleed Abulkhair and urged Saudi authorities to account for their neglect of Abdullah al-Hamid’s health, which has resulted in his death.

Read the full statement below:

Madam President,

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation, ADHRB, ALQST and MENA Rights Group express deep concern at the consistent pattern of arbitrary arrests and detention in Saudi Arabia, where despite the government’s promises for reform, human rights activists continue to be persecuted in retaliation for their peaceful work.

Saudi human rights defenders and Right Livelihood Laureates Mohammed al-Qahtani and Waleed Abulkhair are serving respectively 10 and 15 years in prison on activism-related charges. Despite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention having rendered the opinion that their deprivation of liberty is arbitrary and calling for their immediate release, they remain in prison simply for exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Last April, as raised by six UN experts in an official communication to the Saudi government, Right Livelihood Laureate Abdullah al-Hamid died in prison while serving an 11-year sentence on politically motivated charges, following the repeated denial of crucial medical treatment by prison authorities.

We condemn in the strongest terms that the delay to Mr. al-Hamid’s treatment has arbitrarily deprived him of his right to life and we urge the Saudi authorities to account for their neglect of al-Hamid’s health, which ultimately resulted in his death.

Madam President,

Hosting the G20 and standing for the Human Rights Council election should come with a responsibility to act in line with international human rights obligations. However, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record remains appalling. We therefore call on the Council to ensure that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate work, including through the exercise of their fundamental rights, without fear of intimidation and reprisals.

I thank you.