Human Rights Activists receive lengthy jail terms
Despite the adoption of a new NGO law - the Law for Civil Associations and Organisations - in December 2015, the Saudi authorities continue to target human rights organisations and prevent them from operating. The UN Committee Against Torture recently expressed grave concern that authorities were denying operating licenses and disbanding human rights organisations. On 29 May, human rights defender Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili was sentenced to eight years in prison for his peaceful and legitimate human rights work. Charges against Al-Shubaili included participating in an unauthorised association, the Civil and Political Rights Association in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA). On 7 June prominent lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair ended his hunger strike in prison after five days. Waleed Abu Khair had started his hunger strike because he reportedly had been denied access to medical tests and appropriate food for his health condition. On 24 April 2016, human rights defender Issa Al-Hamid, a founding member and former President of ACPRA, was sentenced to nine years in prison and received a nine-year travel ban also as a result of his peaceful and legitimate human rights work in Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture, in its concluding observations on Saudi Arabia, issued on 13 May, expressed grave concerns about the ongoing targeting of bloggers, journalists and human rights defenders, including the use of torture and the use of the Terrorism Law to prosecute them. In mid-April, access to the website of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) was blocked in Saudi Arabia, just before GCHR was due to publish two reports on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and before the country was being examined by the UN Committee Against Torture.