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Stockholm- The international human rights foundation Skyline calls for serious international action to lift travel bans and stop the persecution of journalists, writers, and dissidents in Saudi Arabia for freedom of opinion and expression in the country. In a statement today, Tuesday, May 10, the human rights foundation welcomed Amnesty International's report addressing the decisions on travel bans in Saudi Arabia.

The report indicates that Saudi Arabia has experienced widespread suppression of free expression since Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power in 2015.

The report also showed that by mid-2021, virtually all human rights and women's rights defenders, freelance journalists, writers, and activists in the country had been arrested and arbitrarily detained or brought to unfair and lengthy trials, usually in criminal court. Specialized-or released on conditions, including a travel ban and the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on their fundamental rights, such as limiting their right to engage in their peaceful activities.

Amnesty has documented the cases of 30 people who have been and are being banned from travelling under court rulings, as well as the cases of 39 people who have been unofficially banned from travelling simply because they are relatives of activists on trial or in exile.

According to the Washington Post, Saudi authorities have also issued travel bans on about 300 people involved in the November 2017 arrests at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, including members of the Saudi royal family, including at least 85 of the king's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The late Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Travel bans are formal or informal orders targeting individuals to restrict their right to travel and freedom of movement.

Skyline points out that Saudi authorities have increasingly used travel bans as part of their repression and punishment of individuals to silence independent and critical voices inside and outside the country. It emphasizes that denial of the right to travel entails a number of civil, political, and economic rights, including the right to health, education, and freedom of movement.

Skyline indicates that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to move freely and choose his residence within the borders of the state, as well as the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country (Article 13). In addition, the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia has ratified, states that every person lawfully within the territory of a State Party has the right to move freely and choose his place of residence (Article 26).

The Saudi travel document system guarantees the right to freedom of movement, as Article 6 states, ''It shall not be permissible to prevent travel except by a court judgment or a decision of the Minister of Interior or the Head of State Security, as the case may be, and for special reasons related to security and for a known period of time, and in both cases the person who is prohibited from traveling shall be notified within a period not exceeding one week from the date of issuance of the judgment or decision prohibiting him from traveling.''

Skyline joins Amnesty International in calling on the authorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to immediately rescind all travel bans imposed on activists and human rights defenders and all other conditions imposed on them judicially solely because of their peaceful work, in addition to the jinformal bans imposed on their relatives and family members outside the judiciary. It urges the international community to find pressure mechanisms on the Saudi authorities to end the use of travel bans as punishment and retaliation, and to ensure full respect for the right to freedom of expression and movement.