The Cairo Institute addresses reprisals against Saudi rights defenders before the UN Human Rights Council

In United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

Thank you Madam President,

As encouraged by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 18/118, we wish to address the topic of reprisals against individuals and groups following their cooperation with the United Nations. Of particular concern to us is the situation in the Gulf region, where human rights defenders are increasingly targeted in an attempt to hamper their work.

A particularly alarming case is that of Dr Mohammad Fahad Al Qahtani, a Saudi human rights advocate and co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), who currently stands accused of “communicating with the UN Human Rights Mechanisms.”Dr Al Qahtani and his colleagues have been diligently documenting cases of human rights violations in the Kingdom, with a particular focus on the thousands of cases of arbitrary detentions. ACPRA has contributed to numerous submissions to the UN Special Procedures, namely the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Over the past few months, Dr Al Qahtani has been regularly summoned for questioning and repeatedly interrogated on his work and his contact with international organisations, in a way which can be considered an attempt to intimidate him. This process has now resulted in a set of charges, of which Dr Al Qahtani was formally notified on Monday, 18 June 2012, when he was brought before the Riyadh Trial Court.

Most notably, Dr Al Qahtani stands accused of using ‘false’ facts and information “as evidence to official international apparatuses (the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations) by way of some statements which he presented to the aforementioned institutions.” This confirms that the trial against Dr Al Qahtani was opened because of his work with the UN Special Procedures and therefore warrants “a strong and decisive action” by this Council and the UN, as stated by the Secretary-General in his report on reprisals submitted to the Council at its 18th session. If found guilty, Dr. Al Qahtani could serve up to 5 years in prison and a heavy fine.

It is important to mention that other members of ACPRA are persecuted as well, some currently serving prison sentences, as are many other human rights defenders in the Kingdom.

We hope that the Human Rights Council continues to act on the issue of reprisals with the required determination. We ask the Council take a firm stand to ensure that States, including members of this Council, do not hamper the ability of human rights defenders to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms.

Thank you Madame President

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