GENEVA (15 January 2015) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday appealed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to halt the punishment of Raef Badawi, who was publicly flogged 50 times last Friday and is reportedly due to be flogged again tomorrow and every Friday until his sentence of 1,000 lashes has been fully carried out.
“Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment. Such punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified,” Zeid said. “I appeal to the King of Saudi Arabia to exercise his power to halt the public flogging by pardoning Mr. Badawi, and to urgently review this type of extraordinarily harsh penalty.”
Badawi, an online blogger and activist, was convicted for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals (USD 266,000).
Badawi’s case was one of a succession of prosecutions of civil society activists. On Monday, an appeals court upheld the conviction of Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abu Al-Khair on charges that include offending the judiciary and founding an unlicensed organisation. Al-Khair’s sentence was extended from 10 to 15 years on appeal.
The UN Committee against Torture (which oversees the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) and the Human Rights Committee (which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), have repeatedly voiced concerns about States’ use of flogging and have called for its abolition. Saudi Arabia’s report on its implementation of the Convention is up for review by the Committee against Torture next year.
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