A local human rights report highlighted an increase in the cases of arrests in the Qatif region during the last few weeks after the protests that took place recently. Al Adala Centre for Human Rights addressed the issues of human rights, arbitrary arrests, political trials, women rights and freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia in a report released in February 2012.
A member of the Centre, Sadiq al-Ramadan, stated that freedom and fair trials are two basic factors for achieving justice. He also added that promoting civil and political rights will solve the present situation as opposed to resorting to violent security measures.
According to the Centre, 36 individuals were arrested in the Eastern Province alone during February. The report also stated that 19 detainees in al-Qatif were sent to a security prison including two journalists, the poet Habeeb Ali al-Maateeq and Sheikh Jalal Mohammed al-Jamal, who were in charge of two websites, Fajr Cultural Network and al-Awamiya on the Net.
The report also added that among the detainees were two minors under 16 who were sent to Dammam prison and joined the ten previous minors. Moreover, it also stated that at least one detainee was sent to Dammam General Prison, another to the police station west of Dammam, two to al- Hasa prison and 12 others are still being held in al-Qatif police station. Some of the most prominent figures held include the head of the Health Centre in al-Awamiya, Dr Abdul Kareem al-Naeem (Syrian) and the Abdul Azeez al-Muhsin the Health Observer of the Centre. These two individuals were arrested for providing medical care to protesters wounded by security bullets.
Adala’s report also mentioned that the security authorities carried out a campaign of raids and searched houses without search warrants. The report also pointed out that a number of detainees were released during February. These are Dr Said bin Zair who is acquitted by The Special Criminal Court after five years spent in prison , Dr.Mubarak bin Zaeer after 11 months, Sheikh Makhlaf bin Daham al-Shimri after 21 months and Tahir Ahmed Shinir after 3 months.
Adala Centre also praised the Royal Pardon with regards to the detainee Hadi al-Mutaif after 18 years spent behind bars for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Dr Yusif al-Ahmed, however, is still detained despite a judicial ruling calling for his temporary release.
Saudi authorities has arrested between Feb 2011 and Feb 2012 at least 550 individuals accused of being involved in peaceful protests and gatherings in Riyadh, al-Hasa, al-Dammam and al-Qatif. The majority of these detainees were released, however, 170 remain imprisoned most of whom are from the Eastern Province and include four children and six others arrested for pieces of writing posted on Facebook. The detainees list includes Syrians who protested against the Syrian regime, but were released soon after.
The report also referred to the trial of the teacher Khaled al-Jihani who was accused of being present at the location of the demonstrations on 11 March 2011 “ Day of Rage”, speaking to foreign media in ways that harm the Kingdom and supporting the right to demonstrate.
The Centre also stated that it had received information with regards to the time of the trial of one of its members Fadhel al-Manasif before the court in Riyadh on the 9 April 2012. Al-Manasif was moved from the General Intelligence Prison in Dammam to General Intelligence (al-Hair) Prison in Riyadh and has been in prison for five consecutive months without allowing his family to visit him.
Freedom of Expression
The Centre highlighted the closure of two websites Fajr Cultural Network and al-Awamiya on the Net and the arrest of their two supervisors. Human rights sources also stated that a number of Facebook pages had disappeared after supporting the protests in the region.
Moreover, the report also mentioned the suspension of a TV program called al-Bayaan al-Taly on al-Daleel channel for its heated debate over poverty in Saudi Arabia which was broadcasted on the 17 February 2012. This resulted in banning Dr Zuhair Kutubi from writing in the Saudi press after his critical stance towards poverty in the country during his participation in the program.
Regarding the case of Blogger Hamza Kashghari, the Centre stated that it is following the developments in the case and taking into consideration the local and international calls for his release.
The Centre also mentioned that it is still following up the law suit of rights activists, Manal al-Shareef and Samar Badawi which was filed against the General Directorate of Traffic after their demand to be issued driving licenses was refused. Tens of Saudi women from different regions in the Kingdom had applied for driving licenses but were rejected although there is no official law forbidding women from driving.
The Centre condemned Saudi authorities for allowing a sectarian seminar to take place for three days in Riyadh during mid-February entitled ‘the truth about Shia creed and its danger to Sunni societies’. The Centre regarded this seminar as inciting hatred which violates local and international human rights conventions. The Centre is also following up the rejection of its appeal to set up a centre for human rights by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The Centre concluded its report be demanding the release of all detainees held on freedom of expression charges. It also called upon the Government to drop all charges against human rights activists Dr Abdulla al-Hamid, Sheik Mukhlaf al-Shumari , Dr Mubarak bin Zaeer, Muhammad al-Bajadi, Fadhel al-Manasif and Dr Yusuf al-Ahmed. The Centre also stressed that the authorities should adhere to local, regional and international agreements signed by the Kingdom. The Centre also hopes that women will be allowed to drive and that the Saudi authorities will allow human rights activists to carry out their legitimate work without facing harassment or arrest; as well as permitting the establishment of human rights institutions.
For more information
- Mr. Sadek Al-Ramadan Mobile: +966 505916554 Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Waleed Sulais Mobile: +966 566450450 Mail : email@example.com