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Four IFEX members, other organisations call for release of three activists detained for speaking out

(CIHRS/IFEX) - The following is a joint statement by CIHRS, ANHRI, BCHR, EOHR and other organisations:

Human Rights Defenders Persecuted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Cairo 11 June 2008 - Arab rights organizations and civil society organizations, signatories to the present statement, call upon the Saudi authorities to put an end to their arbitrary practices targeting Saudi activists who aspire to effect democratic reform in the Kingdom. The organizations, moreover, demand that the Saudi authorities, in particular, take the necessary measures to promptly and unconditionally release Dr. Matruk Al-Falih, a Saudi activist, prominent in the area of human rights and renowned for his involvement in the most significant events demanding constitutional reform in the Kingdom.

Al-Falih was arrested on the 19th of May while at his office at King Saud University (KSU), Riyadh, where he is a Professor of Political Sciences.

The signatory organizations presume that the arrest of Dr. Matruk was directly related to a message he had disseminated a couple of days earlier through email and a website. The message spoke of the poor living and health conditions within the Breidah Public Prison, which he had personally witnessed during his visit to Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid and Issa Al-Hamid, two of his rights activist friends who remain within that prison since last November after being condemned, by virtue of a judicial sentence, with being openly involved with the families of Saudi detainees who, last year, demonstrated in front of the Breidah Prison in protest against the prolonged, unlawful detention of their relatives.

Saudi authorities, instead of initiating tangible measures to correct the dreadful conditions within the prison, which were confirmed by the testimonies of Abdullah and Issa Al-Hamid, decided to punish Dr. Matruk for his public criticism of the conditions of detention and to subject him to even more arbitrary measures by confiscating his personal laptop and mobile phone upon his arrest, and, moreover, by inflicting further pressures and psychological torment on the Professor during his confinement in Al-Ha'er Prison. As reported by his wife, prison officials deliberately woke him after midnight claiming that he would be subject to interrogation, tied his hands and feet and tried to force him to eat after he had announced a food strike in protest against not only being detained, but also against his being detained without any notification of the charges against him.

The signatory organizations of the present statement fear that the continued arbitrary confinement of Dr. Matruk will only jeopardize his health and his life, especially since he is diabetic and suffers from hypertension. The organizations also deem the measures taken against Dr. Al-Falih and his fellow inmates, Abdullah Al-Hamid and Issa Al-Hamid, to be an additional indicator of the extremely poor state of human rights in a country that pays no regard to freedom of speech and to the right of citizens to complain, demonstrate or peacefully associate, and where - moreover - the procedures of litigation and the criteria for a fair trial are greatly violated.

In this context, it is worth mentioning that Matruk Al-Falih and Abdullah Al-Hamid were previously detained in 2004, together with a number of advocates of reform, after they submitted a petition to the King of Saudi Arabia demanding constitutional reforms and legislation to protect human rights and public freedoms. Al-Falih and Al-Hamid have been sentenced to prison for a term of 6 to 9 years and were released in August of 2005 by virtue of a royal pardon granted at that time.

It is also worth noting that Saudi authorities detained blogger Fouad Al-Farhan late last December, after he requested the release of several reform activists. Al-Farhan remained in solitary confinement with no charge or trial until he was released last April.

The signatory organizations to the present statement stress the necessity to bring together the efforts of the international human rights movement to promptly release Matruk Al-Falih, Abdullah Al-Hamid and Issa Al-Hamid and to put an end to the brutal measures taken against human rights defenders and advocates of reform in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The undersigned lay a special emphasis on the fact that member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council should seriously study the relevant measures needed to be taken by Council to spur Saudi authorities to act as per the pledges they made upon their election for the Council membership in 2006. These pledges included a total commitment to defend and foster human rights within the Kingdom.

The signatory Arab organizations consider that the actual practices of Saudi authorities in this context show blatant scorn for these pledges.

Signatory Organizations of the Statement:

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Egypt
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (AITAS), Egypt
Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP), Egypt
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt
Association for Human Rights Legal Aid (AHRLA), Egypt
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain
Center for Alternative Development Studies and Programs, Egypt
Center for the New Woman Studies, Egypt
Center for Trade Union and Workers' Services (CTUWS), Egypt
Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l'Homme en Tunisie, CRLDHT
Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria, Syria
Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS), Syria
Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE), Egypt
Egyptian Center for Women Rights (ECWR), Egypt
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Egypt
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth (EULY) - Egypt
El Nadim Center for the Psychological Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, Egypt
Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLA), Egypt
Human Rights and Freedoms Defense Association (ADDL), Lebanon
Human Rights First Society in Saudi Arabia (HRFS), Saudi Arabia
Justice and Freedom of Human Rights Program, Egypt
Land Center for Human Rights (LCHR), Egypt
Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l'Homme (LTDH), Tunisia
Ma'at for Juridical and Constitutional Studies, Egypt
New Woman Research Center (NWRC), Egypt
Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Palestine
Saudi Center for Human Rights (SCHR), Saudi Arabia
Sho'a'a Center for Liberal Studies, Egypt
Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), Sudan

Updates the Al-Falih, Abdullah Al-Hamid and Issa Al-Hamid case

For further information on the March 2004 arrests of Al-Falih, Al-Hamid and al Dumaini, see:

For further information on the Al-Farhan case, see:

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

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