UN raps Saudis for harassing activists
On Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay singled out the case of human rights defender Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was sentenced on 6 July to 15 years in prison, and called on Saudi authorities to immediately release all those people serving long jail terms just for peacefully advocating human rights in the kingdom.
“Abu al-Khair’s case is a clear illustration of the continuing trend of harassment of Saudi human rights defenders, several of whom have been convicted for peacefully promoting human rights,” said Ms. Pillay in a news release.
According to Pillay, Saudi Arabia continues to charge human rights defenders with offences that are defined in a “vague manner” in its so-called counter-terrorism legislation.
Emphasizing Abu al-Khair’s peaceful activities, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said he was tried in the Specialized Penal Court on a long list of charges.
Pillay said the Penal Court, which was set up in 2008 to deal with terrorism cases, has been created to harass Saudi activists.
The court’s proceedings do not conform with international human rights law, including the Convention against Torture, she said.
The Al Saud regime has come under harsh international criticism for its human rights record.
Protests against the Al Saud family have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protesters in Qatif in Eastern Province, killing five people and leaving scores more injured.
Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
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