Riyadh: The extension of academic Salma Al-Shehab's prison sentence to 34 years requires international intervention to stop the arrests under the right to freedom of expression
Stockholm- Skyline International for Human Rights condemns the harsher prison sentence imposed on academic Salma Al-Shehab by the Saudi Court of Appeal, citing the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
In a statement, Skyline regrets that on August 15, the Saudi Court of Appeals sentenced Al-Shehab to a harsh prison term of 34 years for expressing her opinion on her Twitter account, including writing tweets calling for freedom for prisoners of conscience in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Skyline points out that Al-Shehab had previously been sentenced to six years in prison by the Special Criminal Court for using social media to "disturb public order and destabilize the security and stability of the state." On appeal, the sentence was increased to 34 years, which is the longest sentence on the list of women's rights defenders in the Kingdom. The sentence was increased on the grounds that she had "helped those who want to disrupt public order and destabilize security (...) by following their Twitter accounts" and re-posting their tweets.
The human rights foundation Skyline stresses that this judgment is the continuation of a series of judgments based on unjust laws and judicial procedures that lack justice and that have affected dozens of writers, thinkers, preachers and women because of their civil, political or social activities.
Skyline believes that the perpetuation of such provisions, including those directed against women, is due to the impunity enjoyed by State authorities in Saudi Arabia because of the lack of effective accountability and the fact that the international community, including the major countries of the world, prioritizes their interests at the expense of human rights.
Moreover, Skyline points out that Saudi Arabia is one of the first and strictest countries to control the Internet and social media, whether by blocking or punishing with imprisonment and fines, with the aim of suppressing dissenting voices or those with different opinions.
In addition, Skyline points out that Saudi Arabia conducts arrest campaigns based on a cybercrime law that criminalizes criticism of the government on the Internet and suppresses and silences campaigns.
At the end of its statement, Skyline stresses that these politicized arrests and trials are in stark contrast to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights against the backdrop of freedom of expression. Therfore, Skyline it calls for serious action by the United Nations and relevant international organizations to stop the escalation of violations of public freedoms in Saudi Arabia and to investigate the arrest campaigns for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression.