Saudi Arabia trying to 'wipe out all trace' of country's leading human rights organisation

Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association members tortured and jailed
 
Peaceful activists from Saudi Arabia’s leading human rights organisation are being rounded up, ill-treated in detention and given long prison sentences in an effort to “wipe out all trace” of the group, said Amnesty International in a new briefing today (9 October). 
 
Amnesty’s briefing, How the Kingdom silences its human rights activists, profiles 11 members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) - one of the country’s few independent human rights organisations - who have been jailed or are on trial facing imprisonment in connection with their human rights work over the past three years. 
 
Since its foundation in 2009, the ACPRA had been one of the few voices daring to speak out on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. As a result, its members have been prosecuted on charges such as “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler” and “inciting public opinion against the authorities”, two examples of vaguely-worded charges collated under recent anti-terrorism legislation effectively criminalising all forms of peaceful dissent. 
 
The Saudi Arabian authorities have targeted ACPRA’s founding members one by one in a clear effort to dismantle the organisation and silence its members - part of a broader crackdown on independent activism and freedom of expression in the country since 2011. Those targeted include prominent activists Dr Abdullah al-Hamid and Dr Mohammad al-Qahtani. Two of the group’s members have been detained without trial, three are awaiting re-trial, three are serving prison terms of up to 15 years, and three are free pending the outcome of their trials (see list below).
 
Amnesty’s briefing documents the inhuman treatment inflicted on members of ACPRA. For example, Saleh al-Ashwan was arrested in July 2012 on his way home from early morning prayers. He was kept in incommunicado detention for two months, interrogated in the absence of a lawyer, and was reportedly stripped, beaten and suspended from the ceiling of an interrogation room. Another ACPRA member, Sheikh Suliaman al-Rashudi, who was 76 at the time, was detained incommunicado in solitary confinement for two months before being allowed to have any contact with his family. At least four ACPRA prisoners have gone on hunger strike to protest against their treatment and poor detention conditions. ACPRA member Mohammed al-Bajadi was force-fed intravenously after going on hunger strike several times. 
 
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said:
 
“The Saudi Arabian authorities have consolidated their iron grip on power through a systematic and ruthless campaign of persecution against peaceful activists in a bid to suppress any criticism of the state in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings.
 
“Saudi Arabia’s authorities have sought to wipe out all trace of ACPRA, just as they have sought to stamp out all critical voices demanding peaceful reform.
 
“The convictions of all ACPRA activists in detention should be quashed and they must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
 
Saudi Arabia has long evaded effective international scrutiny for its dire human rights record. It remains one of the USA’s long-standing allies in the “war on terror” including the recent air strikes against the Islamic State armed group in Iraq and Syria. 
 
 

The 11 targeted ACPRA members

The 11 ACPRA members jailed or on trial in connection with their work are: 
1: Abdullah al-Hamid, 66, currently serving an 11-year prison sentence at al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh, where he is reported to have been ill-treated. He is a prisoner of conscience. 
 
2: Mohammad al-Qahtani, 46, currently serving a ten-year prison sentence at al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh, where he is reported to have been ill-treated. He is a prisoner of conscience.   
 
3: Suliaman al-Rashudi, 78, currently serving a 15-year in prison sentence at al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh, where he is reported to have been ill-treated. He is a prisoner of conscience. 
 
4: Mohammed al-Bajadi 36, initially sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, is currently facing a re-trial before the Specialised Criminal Court. He is detained at al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh where he is reported to have been ill-treated. He is a prisoner of conscience. 
 
5: Abdulkarim al-Khodr, 48, initially sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, is currently facing a re-trial before the Specialised Criminal Court. He is detained at Buraydah prison in al-Qassim, where he is reported to have been ill-treated. He is a prisoner of conscience. 
 
6: Omar al-Sa’id, 22, initially sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, is currently facing a re-trial before the Specialised Criminal Court. He is detained at Buraydah prison in al-Qassim where he is reported to have been ill-treated. He is a prisoner of conscience. 
 
7: Abdulrahman al-Hamid, 52, currently detained without charge or trial at Buraydah prison in al-Qassim, where he is reported to have been ill-treated. He is a prisoner of conscience. 
 
8: Saleh al-Ashwan, 30, currently detained without charge or trial since his arrest in April 2012. He is reported to have been tortured and ill-treated in detention. He is a prisoner of conscience. 
 
9: Fowzan al-Harbi, 36, sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. He is currently free pending the outcome of his appeal after having been detained for six months. 
 
10: Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, 30, is currently on trial before the Specialised Criminal Court. 
 
11: Issa al-Hamid, 47, is currently on trial before the Specialised Criminal Court. 
 

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