On 10 November 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia sentenced Internet activist Naima Al-Matrood to six years in jail followed by six years of travel ban after her sentence is served.
Al-Matrood was first arrested on 23 February 2016, after leaving work, at a checkpoint between Al-Dammam and her town of Sihat, and was released two days later. On 13 April 2016, she was arrested for the second time when she was summoned by the Directorate of Public Investigation in Al-Dammam for questioning, and has been held in the prison of this Directorate until now.
On 10 April 2017, her trial started before the SCC on many charges including for allegedly participating in a number of anti-state demonstrations and rallies, being linked to a media cell, and violating public order by creating two social networking accounts on Twitter and Facebook to demand the release of some detainees. Al-Matrood attended the first hearing of the trial alone without the presence of her family members or lawyer. She has not been allowed to communicate with her lawyer since her arrest, even after the trial began, in violation of her right to fair trial.
Al-Matrood, who is 43 years old, has actively contributed to the peaceful human rights movement in the Eastern Province, which demands respect for the civil and human rights of citizens and the achievement of social justice. Her health is deteriorating because of anemia, which has caused her vision to weaken.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) strongly deplores the continued arbitrary detention of Naima Al-Matrood, who, according to local laws, must be released until the appeals process is exhausted. GCHR believes that the ongoing detention of Naima Al-Matrood is solely related to her work in defending human rights and in particular her defence of citizens’ rights in Saudi Arabia.
GCHR calls on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
- Immediately release Naima Al-Matrood and all detained human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia;
- Take all necessary measures to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of Naima Al-Matrood as long as she is in detention and transfer her to a specialised hospital to get the necessary medical treatment; and
- Ensure in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and Internet activists in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
GCHR respectfully reminds the authorities in Saudi Arabia that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (a): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”, Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“ and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”