Saudi human rights defender Issa Al Hamid arbitrarily detained since September 2017

Saudi human rights defender Issa Al Hamid arbitrarily detained since September 2017

Human rights defender Issa Al Hamid was sentenced to nine years in prison and a nine-year travel ban, following an unfair trial before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC). He was convicted on the basis of charges that stemmed directly from the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and association. Al Hamid’s sentence was increased on appeal to 11 years in prison and an 11-year travel ban.

Al Hamid was summoned for interrogation at the Bureau of Investigations and Prosecution in Al Qassim seven times between November 21, 2013, and June 14, 2014. His right to legal counsel was denied on every occasion and he was subjected to ill-treatment, including by being insulted, threatened with an arrest warrant and placed in a detention cell on several occasions during his interrogation.

Al Hamid’s trial began before the Buriadah Criminal Court in June 2014. He was officially informed of the charges against him for the first time during his second hearing on July 3, 2014. They included “incitement to demonstrate”, “harming the credibility of religious authorities”, “insulting the Saudi authorities by describing them as a police state which violates human rights” and “refusing to comply with court decision concerning the dissolution of ACPRA”.

Following the second hearing, Al Hamid’s case was transferred to the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh. 

On April 24, 2016, Al Hamid was sentenced to nine years in prison, followed by a nine-year travel ban upon his release.

On December 1, 2016, Al Hamid’s sentence was increased to 11 years in prison, an 11-year travel ban upon his release and a fine of 100,000 Saudi Riyals (≈ 26,660 USD).

Al Hamid was arrested in the province of Al Qassim on September 16, 2017, and has been held in Onazya Prison ever since to serve his sentence.

On November 21, 2019, after MENA Rights Group submitted a request for an opinion, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted Opinion 71/2019. In its Opinion, the WGAD stated that Al Hamid had been “the target of persecution” as a result of exercising his fundamental rights and asserted that “such sharing of information and ideas through online media cannot reasonably qualify as posing threats against morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.” In light of this, the WGAD emphasised that Al Hamid was being detained arbitrarily and called on the authorities for his immediate release.

In addition, the WGAD noted that throughout its 28 year history, there have been about 60 cases where Saudi Arabia was found to have violated its international human rights obligations. The WGAD subsequently expressed its concern that “this indicates a systemic problem with arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia, which amounts to a serious violation of international law,” warning that under certain circumstances, such violations may constitute crimes against humanity.


May 1, 2020: MENA Rights Group refers case to the Secretary-General on intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights.
November 21, 2019: The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issues Opinion 71/2019, stating that Al Hamid is being detained arbitrarily and calling on the authorities to immediately release him.
October 9, 2019: Ahead of the 10-year anniversary of ACPRA’s founding, MENA Rights Group and ALQST submitted his case to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
August 8, 2019: MENA Rights Group submits request for Opinion to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
September 16, 2017: Arrested and taken to Onazya Prison.
December 1, 2016: Sentence increased to 11 years in prison and 11-year travel ban on appeal.
April 24, 2016: Sentenced by the SCC to nine years in prison and a nine-year travel ban after his release.
July 2014: Case transferred to the SCC.
June 2014: Trial commences before Buriadah Criminal Court.
November 21, 2013: Summoned for interrogation for the first time.