As Amnesty International closes its ‘#LetThemFly’ petition, which saw nearly 100,000 people around the world call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to lift all travel bans imposed on human rights defenders and activists for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“The Saudi Arabian authorities have been handing down arbitrary travel bans as part of prison sentences on those who dare to express any form of peaceful dissent, criticism of the government or support for human rights. These unlawful travel bans seriously undermine activists’ access to healthcare and professional or educational opportunities abroad and wreak havoc on their mental health, with many forcibly separated from their families for years.
“Yet now, a chorus of criticism featuring around 100,000 voices from across the globe is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to ‘Let Them Fly’. It is beyond time that the severe repression unleashed against critics is replaced by genuine respect for human rights. Saudi Arabia must live up to its public relations campaigns depicting a rights respecting society, rather than darkening the lives of activists at home and abroad.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities must end their ruthless crackdown on human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and movement. Until then, we will continue to advocate fiercely for the rights of all residents and people, and to call out every infringement in the Kingdom.”
Amnesty International launched its ‘#Let Them Fly’ petition in May 2022. Since then, Amnesty International mobilized activists around the world to take action. Nearly, 100,000 voices from around the world called on the Saudi Arabian authorities to end travel bans against activists and human rights defenders.
Travel bans are official orders that prevent a particular citizen or group of citizens from entering or leaving the country. They should only be used when necessary, and they should be consistent with all other human rights. The unofficial bans also fail the requirement that they be provided by law.
Amnesty International has documented the cases of 40 human rights defenders and peaceful activists who have been sentenced following grossly unfair trials to travel bans ranging from five to 35 years, as well as 39 unofficial travel bans which have affected relatives of activists. These activists include Loujain al-Hathloul and Raif Badawi.