Still no answers one year after Saudi activist died in prison
Human Rights, Peace, Democracy and Law, 20/04/2021
One year after prominent Saudi human rights defender Dr Abdullah al-Hamid died in prison, Saudi Arabia has still not taken responsibility and has continued to imprison activists for their human rights work.
Today, 13 non-governmental organisations are jointly calling on Saudi Arabia to release all human rights defenders and ensure adequate access to medical care in prisons. Among the signatories are the Right Livelihood Foundation, ALQST for Human Rights and MENA Rights Group.
“We are reminded today of the tragedy of Dr al-Hamid’s death,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation.
“He shouldn’t have been behind bars in the first place, yet he paid the ultimate price for his convictions. Today, many human rights defenders continue to languish in Saudi Arabia’s prisons. Now, many of them face an added threat to their health from the pandemic. We call on Saudi authorities to release all human rights defenders and ensure their access to proper medical care.”
Al-Hamid passed away from an untreated heart condition on April 24, 2020, while serving an 11-year prison sentence on politically motivated charges.
Al-Hamid had received the Right Livelihood Award in 2018 together with fellow Saudi activists Dr Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani and Waleed Abu al-Khair for their efforts to reform the totalitarian political system in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qahtani and Abu al-Khair remain behind bars after being given unjust prison sentences on trumped-up charges. Due to appalling prison conditions in Saudi Arabia, their health and well-being are continuously at risk.
Now, Covid-19 is further endangering the lives of political prisoners. It was reported only days ago that al-Qahtani had contracted the virus. After being prevented from speaking with his family for two weeks, he was able to contact them on Tuesday, April 20, to tell them that he was recovering from Covid-19. He said that he had not been given a diagnosis for the first week of his illness, according to a Twitter post by Maha al-Qahtani, his wife.
The joint statement also calls for the release of all human rights defenders behind bars, including women’s rights defenders Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sadah, Miyya Al-Zahrani and Mohammed Al-Bajadi, who have been in prison since 2018 for advocating for the right for women to drive.