Illustration: Anna Albert

The Right Livelihood Foundation decries Saudi cruelty resulting in the passing of imprisoned Laureate Abdullah al-Hamid

Press releases 24.04.2020

Abdullah Al-Hamid (left), with fellow 2018 Right Livelihood Award Laureates Waleed Abu Al-Khair (centre) and Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani (right). Photo Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0/Ahmed al-Osaimi (Blurred from Original)

The Right Livelihood Foundation is deeply saddened and shocked by the passing of 2018 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Abdullah al-Hamid in Saudi Arabia. The Foundation condemns Saudi authorities in the strongest terms for al-Hamid’s unlawful imprisonment and inhumane treatment that led to his death.

“We are heartbroken about the passing of Abdullah al-Hamid. He has paid the ultimate price for his convictions. We hold Saudi authorities directly responsible for al-Hamid’s death, as they have deliberately denied him access to proper medical care for many months during his imprisonment,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation.

The Foundation has long denounced al-Hamid’s unlawful detention by Saudi authorities, during which he was tortured and harassed. When hospitalised in January, al-Hamid was recommended to urgently undergo heart surgery. However, al-Hamid was repeatedly denied crucial medical care since, leading to the deterioration of his condition and eventual death.

Al-Hamid’s decades-long activism has greatly contributed to the development of a domestic, grassroots approach to realising universal human rights in Saudi Arabia. His personal sacrifice and years of dedication have been a source of inspiration and hope that genuine change will be brought to the country.

Born in 1950, al-Hamid emerged as a powerful voice for reforming Saudi Arabia’s political system, which is dominated by the Saudi royal family’s totalitarian rule. Al-Hamid, who was a poet and Professor of Arabic, wrote several books on reform in the past decades. In 1993, he co-founded the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights, a political advocacy group whose stated objectives include the release of political detainees and accountability for abuses by members of the ruling family.

In 2009, al-Hamid was also among the co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), which became one of the few independent civil society organisations inside the country.

The organisation aimed to promote human rights in Saudi Arabia, while also calling for political reforms, an elected parliament, and independent legal institutions that would protect citizens’ rights and enforce government accountability. One of the key functions of the organisation was to monitor and document human rights abuses, drawing the ire of Saudi authorities for highlighting torture in prisons and mass arrests of protesters.

Due to his activism, al-Hamid was imprisoned by Saudi authorities on several occasions. At the time of his death, he was serving an 11-year prison sentence that began in March 2013.

“Family members have lost a beloved husband and father, and the world has lost an exceptionally brave and visionary reformist. Al-Hamid has empowered a young generation of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, who are continuing the struggle to reform the country’s totalitarian system through peaceful means,” von Uexkull said.

Al-Hamid received the Right Livelihood Award, along with fellow Saudi human rights defenders Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Waleed Abu al-Khair, in 2018 for his “visionary and courageous efforts, guided by universal human rights principles, to reform the totalitarian political system in Saudi Arabia.”

Both al-Qahtani and Abu al-Khair remain in prison serving long sentences for their courageous struggle for a more pluralistic and democratic Saudi Arabia.

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