Saudi Arabia: After 10 years of arbitrary detention, prominent blogger Raif Badawi is free but still banned from travelling

رائف بدوي يؤدي مناسك الحج

Saudi authorities have released prominent Saudi blogger Raif Badawi after his ten-year prison sentence ended. He was sentenced following an unfair trial and as punishment for exercising his right to freedom of expression. However, he remains today banned from travelling for another ten years.
Alkarama has been following the case of activist Raif Badawi for years and has filed several complaints about him with the United Nations Special Procedures. His imprisonment is a typical case of the repression of freedoms and human rights in Saudi Arabia.

He won the Reporters Without Borders Prize in 2012 and was arrested in 2014. A Saudi court sentenced him to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes over a period of 20 weeks. He received fifty of them in the presence of hundreds of spectators in front of a mosque in Jeddah.  On 12 June 2015, the sentence of flogging was officially suspended for health reasons.

Badawi also saw his sister, Samar Badawi, arbitrarily arrested and detained nearly three years before she was released in mid-2021.

Alkarama’s advocacy

Alkarama has repeatedly raised the case of blogger Raif Badawi before UN human rights experts.  In September 2013, Alkarama referred the matter to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on torture.

Then, on 9 January 2015, Alkarama issued an urgent appeal to several UN special procedures , asking them to take measures to protect him, including by issuing a statement condemning his arrest, arbitrary detention and unfair trial, and considering his conviction a clear violation of his human rights.

On 17 November 2016, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention reiterated its call on the Saudi authorities to release Badawi, along with nine other human rights activists defended by Alkarama in the same complaint.

The authorities had imprisoned them in reprisals for their participation in activities for the promotion and protection of human rights.  The UN experts said they had seen no action implementing their decision on the subject made a year earlier.

Several UN experts had sent a letter of allegations to the Saudi Arabian authorities expressing grave concern at the widespread and systematic practice of arbitrary arrest and detention, in particular against human rights defenders because of the practice of their peaceful rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

The letter, dated 22 December 2017, lists the cases of 15 people whose cases were submitted by Alkarama to the special procedures, including nine members of the association for Civil and Political Rights in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA), banned since, as well as blogger Raif Badawi, and human rights defenders. Jaber Al-Omari, Issa Al-Nukhaifi, Fadel Al-Manasif, as well as preacher Salman Al-Awda and his brother Khaled.

In their letter, the experts stressed the necessity for the Saudi authorities "to ensure compliance with the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights".

They reiterated their previous recommendations calling for the immediate release of all the above-mentioned victims.  They also asked the Government to provide information on measures taken to bring counter-terrorism and security-related legislation into line with international human rights standards.