UN Human Rights Council must hold Saudi Arabia accountable for repression of activists

March 23, 2023

During the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, MENA Rights Group, Right Livelihood and ALQST for Human Rights spoke during the debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. More specifically, we shed light on the increasing repression of human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents in Saudi Arabia.

Human Rights Council - 18th Session © UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Mr. President,

Right Livelihood, ALQST for Human Rights and MENA Rights Group remain deeply concerned at the increased repression against human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents in Saudi Arabia.

In recent months, many peaceful activists have been handed lengthy prison sentences of up to 50 years, simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. These are spent in inhumane conditions and are usually followed by travel bans of the same length, in yet another attempt to silence and intimidate activists. 

Moreover, in a new and worrisome trend, several human rights defenders are being detained  beyond the expiry of their sentences. Instead of being released, some have been retried, including Mohammed al-Rabiah, who was re-sentenced last December to 17 years in prison for his peaceful activism. Others, such as Essa al-Nukeifi and Right Livelihood Laureate Mohammed al-Qahtani have been subjected to enforced disappearance after the expiration of their sentences. Both of their families have been denied any contact with them since October 2022, and both men continue to be subjected to incommunicado detention to this day.

Mr. President, 

Economic Interests must not be favoured over human rights and violations need to be called out publicly, as silence only leads to increased repression.  

Hence, we reiterate our calls on the Council to urge Saudi Arabia to stop its persecution of peaceful activists, immediately provide information on the fate and whereabouts of forcibly disappeared activists and unconditionally release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained.

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