The Saudi Arabian authorities have an opportunity to improve their appalling human rights record by heeding the international outcry about the public flogging of Raif Badawi and halting it immediately, said Amnesty International.
The organisation has learned that the imprisoned activist, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up the Saudi Arabian Liberals website, will be flogged for a second time on Friday 16 January. His flogging began last week after Friday prayers when he was lashed 50 times outside al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.
“The world’s spotlight is shining on Saudi Arabia. If authorities ignore widespread criticism and unashamedly continue with the flogging of Raif Badawi, Saudi Arabia would be demonstrating contempt for international law and disregard for world opinion,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“Flogging and other forms of corporal judicial punishment violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. By continuing to dole out this inhuman punishment the Saudi Arabian authorities are flagrantly flouting basic human rights principles.”
The governments of the USA, Canada, Germany and Norway among others have issued statements condemning the flogging of Raif Badawi. Thousands of people from across the world have expressed their outrage over the case on social media and hundreds have organised demonstrations in front of Saudi Arabian embassies worldwide.
“Representatives of the Saudi Government attended Sunday’s march in Paris standing up for freedom of expression. The outright hypocrisy of their participation considered alongside their treatment of Raif Badawi is frankly outrageous and cannot go unchallenged,” said Colm O’Gorman.
“The international community must keep up its pressure on the Saudi Arabian authorities. Raif Badawi’s cruel and unjust punishment must be halted immediately.”
Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, has told Amnesty International that she fears her husband may not be able to physically withstand a second round of lashes.
“Raif told me he is in a lot of pain after his flogging, his health is poor and I’m certain he will not be able to cope with another round of lashes,” she said.
“I told our children about the news last week so that they would not find out about it from friends at school. It is a huge shock for them. International pressure is crucial, I believe if we keep up the support it will eventually pay off. We must keep on fighting.”
In yet another example of Saudi Arabia’s absolute intolerance of peaceful dissent, on Monday 12 January, Raif Badawi’s lawyer, human rights defender Waleed Abu al-Khair, had his sentence upheld upon appeal. He was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison but was to serve only 10. However, the judge on Monday ordered him to serve the full 15-year prison sentence because he has refused to apologise for his “offences”. He had been convicted by the Specialised Criminal Court on charges including breaking allegiance to the ruler, offending the judiciary and founding an unlicensed organisation.