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Ahead of International Blasphemy day on Saturday, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) dedicated its final statement at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council to call for the immediate release of Raif Badawi, Ashraf Fayadh, and Ahmad Al Shamri – all in prison for “religious insult” offences.

Al-Sharq newspaper’s initial report on the arrest of man identified as Ahmad Al Shamri for apostasy and blasphemy in 2014

In the statement, IHEU director of advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, highlighted the double human rights abuse committed by states who arbitrarily detain citizens on accusations of blasphemy. She said, “the problem of arbitrary arrest and detention is often seriously compounded by anti-blasphemy laws and the outlawing of religious insult.”

O’Casey pointed to Saudi Arabia, a country where authorities repeatedly fail to abide by international standards for fair trial, as a case in point. Liberal and human rights activist, Raif Badawi, Palestinian poet, Ashraf Fayadh, and social media user, Ahmad Al Shamri are all in jail on charges related to religious insult and atheism. Al Shamri was sentenced to death in February 2015; his appeal to overturn that sentence was rejected in April this year.

Raif Badawi

Badawi faces another five years in jail after having served five already and suffered at least 50 lashes by the state. He has been sentenced to 600 in total. One of Badawi’s calls before he was imprisoned to was lift the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia. Yesterday saw the announcement of that wish being fulfilled.

Fayadh has been in prison since 2014 and was sentenced to eight years in jail and 800 lashes in January last year. Both Badawi and Fayadh had their original death sentences overturned.

In the statement to the UN, O’Casey observed, “For a state to prohibit blasphemy and religious insult goes against their international human rights obligations. But for a state to then punish and detain people without a fair trial or just procedure on such charges represents a peculiarly cowardly and reprehensible practice.

Ashraf Fayadh

“Like those at the World Conference on Human Rights, we express dismay and condemnation that gross and systematic violations of human rights are still happening in spite of the plethora of laws protecting them.”

She closed by calling for the immediate release of the three men.

Saudi Arabia was re-elected as a member of the Human Rights Council last year.

 

The statement follows in full below:



ORAL STATEMENT
International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 36th Session (11 September – 29 September 2017)
General Debate on Item 8

Elizabeth O’Casey

The Vienna Declaration expresses dismay and condemnation that gross and systematic violations and obstacles to the full enjoyment of all human rights, including arbitrary arrest and detention still occur across the world. The declaration also forcefully defends the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion.

In reality, the problem of arbitrary arrest and detention is often seriously compounded by anti-blasphemy laws and the outlawing of religious insult.

In Saudi Arabia, a country where authorities repeatedly fail to abide by international standards for fair trial, Raif Badawi, Ashraf Fayadh, and Ahmad Al Shamri have all been charged with similar offenses and are still being subjected to arbitrary detention. Al Shamri has been sentenced to death.

These cases demonstrate states acting in violation of the detention and trial provisions of both the UDHR and the ICCPR, and Articles 18 and 19 protecting freedom of belief and expression.

For a state to prohibit blasphemy and religious insult goes against their international human rights obligations. But for a state to then punish and detain people without a fair trial or just procedure on such charges represents a peculiarly cowardly and reprehensible practice.

Like those at the World Conference on Human Rights, we express dismay and condemnation that gross and systematic violations of human rights are still happening in spite of the plethora of laws protecting them.

We call for the immediate release of Ahmad Al Shamri, Raif Badawi, and Ashraf Fayadh, and urge members and observers concerned about arbitrary detention and the right to free expression and belief to do the same.

 

 

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One Response to At UN, IHEU calls for immediate release of Saudi prisoners Badawi, Fayadh and Al Shamri

  1. Qaisar Tufail says:

    The right to free expression is under SIEGE,struggle for a free world should be continue, detention of individuals on the name of Islam is condemnabl.

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