(Paris) – President Francois Hollande of France will meet with Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Al Sa`ud, in Paris on May 28, 2013. The visit comes amid an Interior Ministry-led crackdown on human rights activists throughout the kingdom. President Hollande should press Saudi Arabia to honor its human rights obligations and cease harassment and prosecutions of human rights activists.
Since 2012, Saudi authorities have harassed, prosecuted, and convicted prominent activists for “crimes” related solely to their peaceful exercise of freedoms of expression and association. Around seven have been jailed, and a dozen others have faced threats and harassment.
Most recently, on March 9, a Saudi criminal court sentenced Mohammed al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid, co-founders of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, to 10 and 11-year prison terms respectively. They were convicted of “destabilizing security by calling for protests,” “spreading false information to outside sources,” “undermining national unity,” and “setting up an illegal human rights organization.”
Authorities have threatened to prosecute other activists if they do not cease their human rights activities.
“Mohammed bin Nayef will visit the Elysee Palace while his henchmen round up and harass Saudis who stand up for human rights and justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “President Hollande should tell Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to free the activists, end this shameful crackdown immediately, and let international human rights organizations observe the trial of any activist facing similar charges.”