Qatar: Human rights defender Mohammed Al-Otaibi forcibly deported to Saudi Arabia

Qatari authorities forcibly deported Saudi human rights defender Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi to Saudi Arabia while he and his wife were on their way to Norway.

At dawn, on 28 May 2017, Al-Otaibi has been forcibly deported to Saudi Arabia while on his way to Norway. The Norwegian government had exceptionally agreed to provide him and his wife two Norwegian travel documents and granted them the right to seek asylum as soon as they arrive, after he requested international support following his departure from Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

Al-Otaibi was forced to leave Saudi Arabia, and arrived in Qatar on 30 March 2017, after his case was referred on 08 December 2016 to the Specialised Criminal Court, which was set up to deal with terrorism-related cases but is often used to try human rights defenders and other activists.  Many charges were directed against him including working in an unlicensed society, signing and publishing statements, and practicing human rights activities which forced him to leave the country to Qatar. For further information on his case, please see:

Al-Otaibi, 49, began his human rights work in Saudi Arabia in1996. He participated in several online forums and discussions between 1999 and 2016. He also signed a number of statements demanding the protection of civil and human rights of citizens, the release of prisoners of conscience and reform between 2006 and 2015.

He was first arrested on 01 January 2009 and charged with attempting to initiate a peaceful protest against the attack on Gaza and was released only on 11 June 2012. He had remained in prison for almost three years and seven months without a trial. A travel ban was imposed on him after his release for five years until 01 January 2017.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) strongly deplores the Qatari authorities’ deportation of Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi and his wife to Saudi Arabia, which constitutes a flagrant violation of all human rights instruments as he faces arrest, unfair trial, and the possibility of torture in Saudi Arabia.

GCHR calls upon the Saudi government and other governments with influence in the region in addition to international mechanisms such as the UN, to:

  1. Provide full protection to human rights defender Mohammed Al-Otaibi in Saudi Arabia and allow him to travel to Norway where he has been given the right to stay;
  2. Stop his trial and revoke all the charges directed against him as they are solely related to his peaceful human rights activities; and
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) which states that: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.