Saudi Arabia: Seven sentenced to 50+ lashes for October's demonstration
Amnesty International fears that the men are at risk of imminent flogging and that they have been sentenced for exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully and as such would be prisoners of conscience.
The organisation is calling for the sentences not be carried out and for these men - and approximately 80 others - to be immediately released if not charged with a recognisable criminal offence.
Five of the seven men were sentenced to a one month prison term, fifty lashes and made to sign a declaration vowing not to demonstrate again after they apparently admitted to taking part in the demonstrations.
A Saudi Arabian national who reportedly refused to plead guilty and to sign a declaration vowing not to demonstrate again, was sentenced to a two months prison term and 60 lashes. A Sudanese national who also refused to plead guilty and sign the declaration was sentenced to a three month prison term, fifty lashes and ordered to be deported once his sentence had been carried out. Both are reportedly appealing against the decision of the court. None of the seven men were believed to have been represented by a lawyer at the trial.
All seven were reportedly arrested during a protest demonstration that took place in Jeddah on 23 October. A number of other demonstrations took place on the same day in different parts of the country. These followed a main demonstration in Riyadh on 14 October, which coincided with a government-organised international human rights conference. Over 250 protestors were arrested. Many were released after interrogation, but at least 83 including Um Sa'ud are still being held.
Flogging is mandatory in Saudi Arabia for a number of offences, and can also be used at the discretion of judges as an alternative or addition to other punishments. Sentences can range from dozens to thousands of lashes.
Amnesty International considers the punishment of flogging to be cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture, in contravention of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that 'No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.'
Anti-government demonstrations are not allowed in Saudi Arabia. Critics of the state are often at risk of detention. They are also often ill-treated or tortured.
Defendants do not have the right to formal representation by a lawyer and in many cases they and their families are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them.
Due to the secrecy of the Saudi Arabian justice system, trials are often held behind closed doors. In the rare instances when individuals are charged and brought to trial, the proceedings invariably fail to meet the most elementary standards of fairness.
Amnesty International is urgently contacting the Saudi authorities:
- expressing concern at the report that seven people are to be flogged, and, if it is true, calling for the sentences not to be carried out;
- calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the seven men and others who were arrested if they are being held solely for demonstrating peacefully;
- calling for anyone charged with a recognisably criminal offence to be given a prompt and fair trial;
- reminding the Saudi authorities that Amnesty international considers the use of flogging as punishment to be cruel, inhuman and degrading, contrary to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.