To Your Majesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,
We are writing to you concerning the detention and ill-treatment of Raif Badawi. This unfair detention breaks Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to the ‘freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. Of course, if an individual was excessively violent or dangerous towards others, there would be an argument for detaining and trialling them. Yet, Raif Badawi was not violent. It is incredibly worrying that he has been treated in such an extreme manner simply for peacefully critiquing the society he lives in. We are also concerned about the possibility of the death sentence if he is found guilty of “apostasy”.
Furthermore, the use of corporal punishment in any form, including torture and forcing individuals to perform cruel or degrading acts, contravenes the United Nations Convention against Torture, a treaty that Saudi Arabia has signed. The public flogging of Badawi stands in bleak contrast to this globally binding policy. The intention to administer further punishment – which was thankfully barred by a medical expert – shows a total lack of concern for Badawi’s well-being and safety. The fact that you are also withholding medicine from him, medicine that is vital to his survival as a person suffering from diabetes, is also very concerning. These acts of violence completely contravene international law and must be ceased immediately.
We also protest the arrest and detention of Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu Al-Khair. Similarly, he has been unfairly arrested for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of speech, by setting up an organisation that aimed to monitor and uphold basic human rights within Saudi Arabia. One of the charges against him claims his actions were ‘harmful to public order’. It is worrying that a desire to provide a fair and safe life for all is considered dangerous and worthy of criminal punishment. Allegations of ill-treatment of Al-Khair in detention have also arisen, which, as stated above, contravenes international law. Not only is his imprisonment and ill-treatment deeply concerning, but it means that Badawi is also denied criminal defence and access to a lawyer of his choice. This situation and the fact that the original trial judge was replaced by another who already advocated that Badawi be punished for “apostasy”, is worrying and gives the impression that Badawi does not even have a hope at a fair trial.
We condemn the judgements against Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu Al-Khair for simply expressing their right to freedom of expression and belief. We also call for the end of the flogging of Badawi and the immediate provision of medication for his illness. We also call for immediate medical attention for the alleged ill-treatment, and access to their families and lawyers of their choice. Finally, we call for Saudi Arabia to remember the treaty they signed, and to immediately adhere to it.We hope our, and many others’, demands are met.
Scottish PEN StudentsEdinburgh.