Saudi Arabia: Awad Al-Qarni's arbitrary detention before UN experts

Al Qarni

Awad Al-Qarni, a 65-year-old law professor and prominent Saudi preacher, was arrested by the intelligence services (Mahabith) in 2017 during the massive crackdown on preachers, human rights defenders, journalists and businessmen including members of the royal family. He is accused of using social networks (Twitter and WhatsApp) to spread information interpreted as "hostile" to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

While Saudi Arabia continues to hound its dissidents on the internet, the use of social media remains particularly monitored and any criticism of the authorities' policies has been criminalised in the kingdom since the beginning of Prince Mohammed Ben Salmane's reign. Arbitrarily detained since his arrest, Awad Al Qarni is now facing the death penalty for expressing his views peacefully on social media.

Concerned about his situation, Alkarama sent a communication to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 28 February 2023 calling on the Saudi authorities to release him.

Alkarama's submission to the Working Group    

In his communication to the UN, Alkarama stressed that Al-Qarni's deprivation of liberty is unfounded in law and arbitrary in fact. Neither his arrest nor his detention is justified in law and in fact and does not meet the criteria of legality set out in the basic texts regarding detention.

Alkarama informed the independent experts of the Working Group about the absurd indictment of the Saudi prosecution which requires his death sentence solely for using social media such as WhatsApp and Twitter.

In his communication to the Working Group, Alkarama stressed the arbitrary nature of his detention for exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.

Freedom of opinion and expression as expressed in Article 19 of the UDHR is part of customary international law, which is binding on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Alkarama also drew the attention of the experts to the numerous violations of her fundamental rights to a fair trial, including the right to benefit from legal assistance throughout her trial.

Concerned that Al Qarni's prosecution and treatment is a direct result of his political views, Alkarama called on the UN Working Group to recognise the arbitrary nature of the Saudi professor's deprivation of liberty and to urge the State party to release him without delay in accordance with its international commitments.