Saudi Arabia: A year of bloody repression since flogging of Raif Badawi
The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has steadily deteriorated over the year since blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged for exercising his right to free expression, said Amnesty International the day before the first anniversary of the flogging.
The past year has seen the Kingdom’s human rights record go from bad to worse. Most recently the mass execution of 47 people in a single day, including Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, sent shockwaves across the region.
Despite the much hailed participation of women in municipal elections last month, Saudi Arabia continued its sweeping crackdown on human rights activists and led a devastating air bombardment campaign in Yemen that saw the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.
“A year after the international outcry over his public flogging, Raif Badawi and dozens of prisoners of conscience remain in prison and at risk of suffering cruel punishments and ill-treatment for their peaceful activism,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
“More and more human rights defenders are being sentenced to years in prison under Saudi Arabia’s 2014 counter-terror law, while its allies shamelessly back the Kingdom’s repression in the name of the so-called ‘war on terror’.”
“A year after the international outcry over his public flogging, Raif Badawi and dozens of prisoners of conscience remain in prison and at risk of suffering cruel punishments and ill-treatment for their peaceful activism,”
James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
Among the many people imprisoned is Raif Badawi’s lawyer, , the first human rights defender to be sentenced under Saudi Arabia’s counter-terror law in force since February 2014, after an unfair trial. Dozens more were jailed under the law in 2015, including human rights defenders and , both founding members of the now disbanded , also after unfair trials.
Saudi Arabia continues to ban independent human rights associations and imprison its founding members, with lengthy prison terms for forming “unlicensed organizations”. All public gatherings, including peaceful demonstrations, remain prohibited under an order issued by the Ministry of Interior in 2011.
Meanwhile, the authorities have used the 2014 counter-terror law and the Kingdom’s notorious “counter-terror” court, the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), to systematically clamp down on all forms of activism, including by sentencing to death and executing Shi’a Muslim activists after grossly unfair trials, such as prominent Shi’a Muslim cleric and vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian government, who was executed with three other Shia Muslim activists on 2 January.
, the nephew of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and were all under the age of 18 when they were arrested. All three have had grossly unfair trials and were sentenced to death based solely on ‘confessions’ they claim were extracted under torture. The court has refused to investigate their allegations of torture.
“A bloody crackdown on all forms of dissent has seen the authorities uphold death sentences imposed on three alleged juvenile offenders, in egregious violation of international law and based on no evidence other than ‘confessions’ all three activists have said they were tortured to make.”
“This is at a time when Saudi Arabia has stepped up its horrendous execution spree with at least 151 people executed between January and November 2015 – the highest toll since 1995. Close to half of those executed were for crimes that should not, according to international law, be punishable by death.”
Saudi Arabia has also led a military coalition which, since March 2015, has carried out thousands of air strikes in areas of Yemen controlled by the Huthi armed group. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the air strikes, which have also struck civilian infrastructure including health facilities, schools, factories, power facilities, bridges and roads. Amnesty International has found that such strikes have been frequently disproportionate or indiscriminate and in some instances they appear to .
Some of the weapons used by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen which have hit , were produced and/or designed in the and . The UK and US governments are also providing logistical support and intelligence to the coalition.