November 1, 2016
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday slammed a “well-funded” clampdown on Gulf Arab rights activists and urged the six monarchies to implement “much-needed reforms” instead of jailing peaceful critics.
The New York-based watchdog made its latest call for reform in Gulf Cooperation Council states as it launched an interactive website with the profiles of 140 prominent Gulf activists — reflecting Twitter’s 140-character limit — who have been arrested, tried and sentenced for voicing their opinions online over the past six years.
They include prominent Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, who is on trial on charges of “spreading false information and posting online insults,” and Saudi activist Waleed Abulkhair who is serving a 15-year jail sentence.
Also among those listed is Emirati lawyer Mohammed al-Roken, who was jailed in 2013 with 69 people for 15 years after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime.
“The Gulf states have engaged in a systematic and well-funded assault on free speech to subvert the potentially transformative impact of social media and internet technology,” said HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.