RIYADH - Amnesty International has urged Saudi Arabia to drop plans to execute Israa al-Ghomgham, the first woman to face the death penalty simply for participating in protests.
“Israa al-Ghomgam and four other individuals are now facing the most appalling possible punishment simply for their involvement in anti-government protests," Amnesty said.
“Sentencing Israa al-Ghomgam to death would send a horrifying message that other activists could be targeted in the same way for their peaceful protest and human rights activism. The charges against Israa al-Ghomgam, which mostly relate to her peaceful participation in protests, are absurd and clearly politically motivated to silence dissent in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia."
“Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most prolific executioners and the world cannot continue to ignore the country’s horrific human rights record. We call on the international community to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian authorities to end the use of the death penalty, which continues to be employed in violation of international human rights law and standards, often after grossly unfair and politically motivated trials.”
Israa al-Ghomgham and other individuals are currently detained in al-Mabahith prison in Dammam, Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
Israa al-Ghomgham, 29, was arrested along with her husband Moussa al-Hashem in December 2015, for their roles in participating in anti-government protests in the eastern Qatif province in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
The Saudi public prosecutor called for Israa al-Ghomgham and five other defendants to be beheaded.
In another development, Amnesty has condemned the "arbitrary detention" of several women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia as three prominent activists reach 100 days of being held without charge.
Since May, at least 12 leading human rights activists in Saudi Arabia have been detained without charge. Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef were all imprisoned on 15 May and today (23 August) marks 100 days since their detention, Amnesty said.
“It is absolutely outrageous that so many brave human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are still being held without charge – apparently for simply speaking out against injustice,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.
“They have been detained without charge and with no legal representation for more than three months. This must not go on any longer. The world cannot carry on looking the other way as this relentless persecution of those who stand up for human rights in Saudi Arabia continues.”
To mark the 100 day anniversary, Amnesty International is today mobilising its supporters worldwide to stand with the detained human rights defenders. As part of the campaign, Amnesty International supporters are gathering in multiple cities around the world to protest outside of Saudi Arabian embassies. They will be putting pressure on the Saudi Arabian authorities, as well as their own governments, to take action to secure the release of the women human rights defenders and all prisoners of conscience who have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights in Saudi Arabia.
Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef have faced accusations in state-aligned media which include forming a “cell” and posing a threat to state security for their “contact with foreign entities with the aim of undermining the country’s stability and social fabric”. Amnesty International understands that the three women may be charged and tried by the country’s notorious counter-terror court, which has been used in other instances to try human rights defenders and deliver harsh prison sentences.
Earlier this month, two more prominent women human rights activists - Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada - were also detained. Others detained recently include women’s rights activists Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani, and activists who have previously been persecuted for their human rights work, such as Mohammed al-Bajadi and Khalid al-Omeir. Hatoon al-Fassi, a prominent women’s rights activist and academic was also reportedly detained a few days after Saudi Arabia lifted the driving ban in June.
So far, a total of 12 human rights defenders have been detained: eight women and four men. The crackdown began shortly before Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving in the country. Many of the activists detained campaigned for the right to drive and the end of the repressive male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia for many years.
“The international community must push the Saudi Arabian authorities to end this targeted repression of activists in the country. States with significant influence in Saudi Arabia – such as the USA, UK and France – should do much more to campaign for their release,” said Samah Hadid.
“Saudi Arabia must release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, and end the draconian crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.”(FA)