• Press Release

Saudi Arabia: International community must speak up for human rights defenders after Canadian ambassador expelled

August 6, 2018

The international community must speak up for detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said today, after the Canadian ambassador to the country was expelled after calling for their release.

“The international community must push Saudi Arabian authorities to end this draconian crackdown and targeted repression of human rights defenders in the country”, said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.

“Instead of pursuing human rights reform, the government of Saudi Arabia has chosen to lash out with punitive measures in the face of criticism. States with significant influence in Saudi Arabia – such as the USA, UK and France – have now remained silent for far too long.

“The world cannot continue to look the other way as this relentless persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia continues. It is now time for other governments to join Canada in increasing the pressure on Saudi Arabia to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, and end the crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.”

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia announced diplomatic and trade measures against Canada in retaliation to recent Canadian government calls for detained human rights activists in the country to be freed. Measures announced by the government of Saudi Arabia include the recall of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador from Canada, a demand that Canada’s Ambassador leave Saudi Arabia within 24 hours and a hold on any new business and investment transactions.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry accused Canada of “overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs” of the country. The move came following a tweet from Canadian Foreign Policy account, which said: “Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi”.

Last week, two more prominent women human rights activists – Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada – were detained in Saudi Arabia. Since May, a number of leading women’s rights activists and campaigners in Saudi Arabia – including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef – have been detained for their peaceful human rights work. Many have been detained without charge, and may face trial before the counter-terror court and up to 20 years in prison for their activism. Others detained recently include women’s rights activists Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani, and activists who have previously been persecuted for their human rights work, such as Mohammed al-Bajadi and Khalid al-Omeir.