top of page

SAUDI ARABIA: ARBITRARY DETENTION OF SCHOLAR ABDULRAHMAN AL-HAWALI

The International League Against Arbitrary Detention urges the Government of Saudi Arabia to take all the necessary actions to implement the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion No. 26/2023 concerning Abdulrahman Al-Hawali starting for the Government of Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release Abdulrahman Al-Hawali and to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law.


Read the full WGAD Opinion concerning Abdulrahman Al-Hawali (Saudia Arabia): Opinion No. 26/2023


UNLAWFULLY ARRESTED, SUBJECTED TO ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE AND DETAINED FOR 4 YEARS


Safar bin Abdulrahman al-Hawali, a 70-year-old professor from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is a prominent religious scholar and leader of the Saudi al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya movement. He was previously detained without charge from 1994 to 1999 for publicly opposing the Saudi government and the establishment of US military bases in the Gulf peninsula.


On 12 July 2018, Mr. Al-Hawali's home was raided and he was taken to an undisclosed location without an arrest warrant or charges from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The circumstances of his arrest did not amount to flagrante delicto. The Working Group determined that his initial detention violated article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rendering it legally baseless and placing him outside the protection of the law. Furthermore, the failure to notify his family of his arrest and location of detention contravened principle 16 (1) of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. 


Mr. Al-Hawali has been detained for more than 4 years, and most recently was transferred from the prison of the General Directorate of Investigation in the Governorate of Jeddah to the Al-Hayr prison in Riyadh. During this time, he has been detained incommunicado, and reportedly been denied appropriate medical care. 


Consequently, the Working Group found that the Government failed to establish any legal basis for Mr. Al-Hawali’s detention, rendering his ongoing detention as arbitrary under category I.


PERSECUTED DUE TO HIS ROLE AS A HUMAN RIGHTS SCHOLAR


Mr. Al-Hawali was exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression by criticising the leaders ruling the country and publishing a book entitled Muslims and the Western Civilization, in which he condemned the policies of the Government. The Working Group denoted that the Counter-terrorism and Financing of Terrorism Act under which the subject was charged lacks legal certainty and is regularly used to criminalise acts falling under the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, as well as the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It was concluded that Mr. Al-Hawali’s detention resulted from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, alongside the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, and was contrary to articles 7, 19 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ergo, the Working Group rendered Mr Al-Hawali’s detention arbitrary under category II. 


In addition, the Working Group recalled that Mr Al-Hawali was arrested and detailed on discriminatory grounds, namely on the basis of political views and convictions. It was accepted that Mr Al-Hawali was targeted because of his peaceful activities criticising the state. The allegations from the source were held to be consistent with previous findings made by the Working Group in relation to Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the Working Group concluded that Mr Al-Hawali’s deprivation of liberty is arbitrary under category V due to the contravention of articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


ONGOING PRETRIAL DETENTION AND BLATANT VIOLATIONS OF HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL


Mr Al-Hawali allegedly has not been able to access legal representation in Saudi Arabia nor communicate with any lawyer since his arrest. The subject was detained for over three months without being presented before an independent judicial authority and without being charged or informed of the charges laid against him. Additionally, Mr Al-Hawali has been unable to challenge the lawfulness of his detention, in violation of the right to habeas corpus. Information that was provided by the source also highlighted Mr. Al-Hawali is a person with disabilities, which entails that he cannot defend himself due to facial paralysis. As it stands, more than four years of pretrial detention has passed without the Government providing any justification for such a delay.


The Working Group thus concluded that Mr. Al-Hawali is a victim of a violation of his rights under articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that his deprivation of liberty has an arbitrary character under category III.


CONCLUSIONS OF THE UN WORKING GROUP AGAINST ARBITRARY DETENTION


In light of the foregoing, the UN Working Group Against Arbitrary Detention considered that the detention of Mr. Al-Hawali was arbitrary and fell under categories I, II, III, and V because his deprivation of liberty was in contravention of articles 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 19 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The Working Group expressed its utmost concern regarding the source’s allegation that Mr. Al-Hawali has been in detention for more than 4 years without being charged and without any prospect of trial. The Working Group considered that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to unconditionally release Mr. Al-Hawali immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page