Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al Saud

 

H.E. Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud,

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom

30-32 Charles Street,

Mayfair, London,W1J 5DZ

Your Highness,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.

I am writing to express my profound concern regarding the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, a human rights defender from the region of Qatif, an eastern coastal city with a Shia majority, after documenting and denouncing human rights violations during peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.

 

According to the information received from the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), on January 31, 2019, the authorities confirmed in a public statement that they would not seek the imposition of the death penalty against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, prosecuted for “illegal protests” before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) together with five other defendants.

 

On January 13, 2019, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham was due to appear before the SCC for the fourth time, but the hearing was postponed over internal restructuring of the Court. The Prosecutor had called to apply the death penalty against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham in her first hearing (see background information), making her the first female human rights defender to eventually be executed in Saudi Arabia.

 

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham remains detained in Al-Dhamam General Intelligence Prison and the same charges are still pending against her. Four of her five male co-defendants are still facing death penalty. The new hearing date has not been publicised yet.

 

On October 12, 2018, United Nations Special Procedures expressed their concern over Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham arbitrary detention and threats of death penalty.

 

I reiterate my deepest preoccupation regarding the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, especially as she does not have access to her relatives nor to her lawyer, and as she failed to appear to her precedent hearings.

 

I recall that many other female human rights defenders face arbitrary detention and judicial harassment in Saudi Arabia.

 

I strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham and all the human rights defenders in the country, and call on Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them.

 

Background information:

 

Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham was arbitrarily arrested on December 8, 2015, after the Saudi authorities launched a raid at her home, arbitrarily arresting her and her husband. Both have been detained in Dammam’s al-Mabahith prison since then.

 

On August 15, 2018, the Saudi Public Prosecution called the court to apply the death penalty against Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, who was brought before the SCC in Riyadh along the five above-mentioned other activists for her first court session after 32 months of arbitrary detention. The Public Prosecution accused the six defendants of “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflame public opinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and “providing moral support to rioters”, charges that do not correspond to any codified crime. The Public Prosecution called for the death penalty based on the Islamic law principle of ta’zir, in which the judge has discretion over the definition of crimes and sentences. During this hearing, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham had no access to legal representation.

 

On October 28, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham failed to appear before the SCC, during the second hearing. During this hearing, the accused could not present their defence as the hearing was abruptly cancelled for unknown reasons.

 

On November 21, 2018, Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham once again failed to appear before the SCC for the third hearing while the five other defendants were present. The reasons for her non-attendance remain unknown.

 

The third session was devoted to the presentation of the defence of the accused. Three of the accused could present their defence and were told that their next hearing was scheduled for January 13, 2019. The other three accused, including Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham, were told that they would have the opportunity to present their defense “in two months”.

 

Actions requested:

  • Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham as well as of all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

 

  • Ensure Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham have unhindered access to her family and lawyers and respect in all circumstances her right to a fair trial;

 

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Israa Al-Ghomgham and end all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

 

  • Comply in all circumstances with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;

 

  • More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments ratified by Saudi Arabia.

I  thank you for your consideration and look forward to a positive response.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

William Nicholas Gomes

Journalist and Human Rights Activist

York, United Kingdom

Twitter : wnicholasgomes

Email: [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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