Illustration of 2018 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Waleed Abu Al-Khair. Illustration by: Anna Albert

HRC43: Saudi Arabia must stop using counter terrorism laws to crackdown on peaceful critics

On March 5th, at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Right Livelihood Foundation delivered a statement during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, denouncing the misuse by the Saudi authorities of counter-terrorism policies to crackdown on peaceful dissent and freedom of expression. The Foundation highlighted individual cases of Saudi activists prosecuted under counter-terrorism laws, including 2018 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Waleed Abu al-Khair.

Read the Oral Statement below:

Madam President,

The Right Livelihood Foundation, ALQST and MENA Rights Group wish to highlight the failure of the Saudi authorities to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur contained in the country visit report. Notably, that national security practices to prevent and counter terrorism must never be used to stifle peaceful political dissidence, criticism or non-violent protests.

On the contrary, the Saudi authorities continue to crack down on human rights activists and peaceful critics through the application of counter-terrorism laws. In particular, the 2017 Anti-Terrorism Law remains unamended and still contains an extremely vague definition of terrorism, which criminalises fundamental rights such as the freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Through Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, an exceptional jurisdiction, human rights defenders, including Mohamed Al Oteibi, clerics Hassan Al Maliki and Salman Al Odah, are currently facing trial on charges related to their peaceful activism and free speech. 2018 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Waleed Abu al-Khair has been convicted by the same court on similarly unfounded charges and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Madam President,

In view of the government’s continued misuse of counter-terrorism policies to crackdown on peaceful dissent, we urge the Human Rights Council to establish an accountability and transparency mechanism, such as a country-specific Special Procedure, to monitor and address these institutional practices.

We thank you.