[JURIST] Saudi Arabia is persecuting rights activists and silencing government critics, according to a report [text, PDF; press release] issued Friday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. According to AI, members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) have been persecuted since the Arab Spring in 2011. The Saudi Arabian government has reportedly targeted 11 of the founding members of the ACPRA individually since 2011, eight of whom are currently detained, and the remaining three of whom are awaiting outcomes of their trials. The Director of AI’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, Said Boumedouha claimed that “Saudi Arabian authorities have sought to wipe out all trace of ACPRA, just as they have sought to stamp out all critical voices demanding peaceful reform.” AI urged the Saudi Arabian government to cease its campaign against these political protesters:
By defending rights and speaking out, the ACPRA members and a small group of other courageous human rights advocates, appear to have been seen by Saudi Arabia’s rulers as challenging their authority and policies, and to have been targeted in consequence. … Amnesty International considers all eight detained members to be prisoners of conscience and is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally. The organization is also calling on the authorities to drop the charges against those facing trial and ensure that the sentences and convictions of all ACPRA members are quashed.
AI also urged members of the international community to pressure the Saudi Arabian government to improve human rights standards.
Saudi Arabia’s justice system has drawn international criticism in recent years, especially with regard to its high number of executions. Last month two experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] following an increase in executions, with a significant number of the executions completed by beheading. In July then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, expressed deep concern [JURIST report] over the harsh sentences and detention of peaceful human rights advocates in Saudi Arabia in recent months. In February JURIST Guest Columnist Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch argued [JURIST op-ed] that a new Saudi Arabian terrorism law was a vague, catch-all document that can—and probably will—be used to prosecute or jail anyone who criticizes the Saudi government and to violate their due process rights along the way. Also in February AI criticized [JURIST report] the Saudi Arabian counterterrorism law on the basis that the law will deepen existing patterns of human rights violations and will be used to crack down on peaceful dissent.