Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Saudi judicial system is sentencing top reform advocates, activists, and writers to lengthy jail terms on vague charges related to freedom of speech.
“Human rights advocates hoped that [Saudi] King Salman [bin Abdulaziz Al Saud] would rein in his country’s repression of peaceful dissidents, but the authorities harass and jail people for peacefully expressing reform-oriented opinions,” HRW Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said on Monday.
“The king should put an end to this sustained assault on free expression and release all peaceful activists and writers,” Whitson added.
She noted that such practices demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s “complete intolerance” toward people who speak out for human rights and reform.
Her remarks come as Saudi Arabia has already been under fire for the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, which was announced on January 2.
Nimr’s execution was widely censured by Muslims and human rights activists around the globe as well as different governments.
International rights bodies have criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, arguing that widespread violations continue unabated in the country.
On Saturday, Amnesty International voiced concern over the imprisonment and abuse of peaceful human rights defenders and activists by the Saudi regime under the pretext of war on terror.
“More and more human rights defenders are being sentenced to years in prison under Saudi Arabia’s 2014 counter-terror law, while its allies shamelessly back the kingdom’s repression in the name of the so-called ‘war on terror’,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
He added that dozens of prisoners of conscience remain in jail “at the risk of suffering cruel punishments and ill-treatment for their peaceful activism.”