December 20, 2016
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers and others who promote international human rights and the rule of law through advocacy, education and research. LRWC campaigns for lawyers and other human rights defenders in jeopardy because of their human rights advocacy. LRWC is a non-governmental organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (UN).
Waleed Abu al-Khair has been selected as a recipient of the Law Society of Upper Canada 2016 Human Rights Award in recognition of his,
extraordinary contributions to the advancement of human rights and promotion of democracy and the rule of law in Saudi Arabia over the course of his career as an advocate, made at high personal cost, [which] demonstrate the highest ideals of the legal profession.
The Law Society of Upper Canada, in a letter from Paul B. Schabas, Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada,  has invited Waleed Abu al-Khair to attend in person to accept the award at the award ceremony on 22 February 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
LRWC asks the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia) to comply with its international law obligations and to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Waleed Abu al-Khair;
- Remove the travel ban prohibiting Waleed Abu al-Khair from leaving Saudi Arabia for 15 years after his release and vacate the SAR 200,000 fine; and,
- Ensure all other measures necessary to allow and enable Waleed Abu al-Khair to attend in person to accept the Law Society of Upper Canada 2016 Human Rights Award at the ceremony on 22 February 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Release of Waleed Abu al-Khair
Waleed Abu al-Khair was arrested on 14 April 2014 and subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison, a travel ban of 15 years following completion of the prison sentence and a fine of SAR 200,000. He had been charged under the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing with a variety of vague and over-broad offenses based on and aimed at, sanctioning his peaceful advocacy for recognition of human and democratic rights. The charges were either too vague to allow avoidance or defense or did not relate to criminal activity. Examples of the former were, ‘seeking to discredit state legitimacy’ and ‘preparing, storing and sending what would prejudice public order’ – of the latter, ‘running an unauthorized association and being its chairman speaking on its behalf and issuing statements and communicating through it.’
Leading members of the international human rights community have concluded his imprisonment lacks any legal justification, is arbitrary and constitutes a violation of all applicable international law provisions binding on Saudi Arabia. This conclusion was confirmed by the 2015 Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.