Amnesty International: Despite limited improvements in the field of women’s rights, the Saudi Arabian authorities have pursued a persistent and ruthless crackdown on all forms of dissent by, among other measures, detaining critics after grossly unfair trials before the Specialized Criminal Court, often on spurious terrorism charges, increased their use of the death penalty and maintained practices that discriminate against the country’s Shi’a Muslim minority. The Kingdom’s military has also repeatedly violated the laws of war in its military campaign in Yemen.
Dozens of human rights defenders, peaceful activists and dissidents remained behind bars after being imprisoned in previous years. Among them were blogger Raif Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, the first human rights defender to be sentenced after an unfair trial under Saudi Arabia’s counter-terror law, in force since February 2014. Dozens more were jailed under the law in 2015, including human rights defenders Dr Abdulkareem al-Khoder and Dr Abdulrahman al-Hamid, both founding members of the now disbanded independent Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), also after unfair trials. Most of the organization’s other founding members remained in prison.
Prominent writer Dr Zuhair Kutbi was sentenced in December 2015 to four years in prison by the Specialized Criminal Court, followed by a five-year ban on overseas travel, a fine of 100,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (about US$26,600) and a 15-year ban on writing and giving interviews to the media. The court also ordered him to erase his social media accounts. It suspended two years of his four-year sentence because of his poor health, but indicated they would be re-imposed if he “offended” again. [Continue reading…]