Vancouver, Paris, Geneva: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - NGOs call for immediate release of Raif Badawi

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the Law Society of England and Wales, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - within the framework of their joint programme the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - call on the Government of Saudi Arabia and the international community to take effective action to ensure the immediate and unconditional release from prison of Raif Badawi.

On 17 June 2012, Mr. Raif Badawi was arrested on several charges including “apostasy” by insulting Islam through electronic channels. The charges stem from a website Mr. Raif Badawi created in 2006, called Saudi Liberal Network, devoted to freedom of speech, human rights activism and criticism of government officials.

On 29 July 2013, Mr. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 7 years in jail and 600 lashes by the Criminal Court in Jeddah. On 12 December 2013 the Court of Appeals ordered a retrial and on 7 May 2014, Mr. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes, a 10-year travel ban following his prison term, and a fine of 1 million Saudi Riyals (325,890.00 CAD). Raif Badawi was not present at the 7 May 2014 proceedings and was not represented by a lawyer. His lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair was arrested on 15 April 2014 and has been continuously in prison since.

On 9 January 2015, Mr. Raif Badawi received 50 lashes outside Al-Jaffali mosque in Jeddah; the lashings were suspended after the first session and the case was referred to the Saudi Supreme Court for review. On 7 June 2015, the Supreme Court upheld Mr. Badawi’s sentence. Mr. Badawi was not present or represented by a lawyer at the 7 June 2015 review of sentence by the Supreme Court. There is no further appeal possible in the Saudi courts.

The prosecution, conviction and sentencing of Raif Badawi for peacefully exercising rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Articles 19 and 21 violate Saudi Arabia’s obligation to respect and ensure the enjoyment of those rights by all citizens. Flogging is absolutely prohibited by the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) to which Saudi Arabia is a party (23 September 1997). The trial and appeal procedures that resulted in a conviction violate fair trial procedures determined by the UDHR, Articles 9, 10 and 11, customary international law and widely accepted criminal law principles.

As a member of the United Nations, Saudi Arabia is legally obligated to respect the provisions of the UDHR and other instruments confirming state duties to ensure internationally protected rights to expression, fair trial and freedom from torture. As a party to UNCAT Saudi Arabia is legally bound to prevent and punish flogging as a treatment prohibited by that Convention. Therefore our organisations call on Saudi to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Raif Badawi and to cease the flogging that he is sentenced to undergo.


Read our joint letter attached.