“Four Saudi activists are under investigation after forming a human rights group on April 3, 2013, and could face prosecution for ‘establishing an illegal organization,’ Human Rights Watch said today:
Saudi authorities should immediately cease harassing the four founding members of the group, the Union for Human Rights (UHR), and give it an operating license.
The Riyadh public prosecutor summoned Mohammed Abdullah al-Otaibi and the UHR’s three other founding members for questioning on April 28, April 29, and May 4. Al-Otaibi told Human Rights Watch that after the members agreed to close down the group, the authorities said they would not bring charges if the UHR applied for an official license and suspended operations until the Social Affairs Ministry granted it. On May 6, however, prosecutors summoned al-Otaibi for further questioning on May 8, raising fears that they will in fact press charges against the four founders.
During the May 4 interrogation session, investigators accused al-Otaibi and another co-founder of creating an illegal organization and demanded to know who had conceived it, who issued its media statements, and who financed the group. ….. One of the founders told Human Rights Watch that he and the others had long considered starting a human rights organization but felt spurred to do so by the Saudi government’s decision to close down another group, the Saudi Association on Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), in March and its detention of seven of the group’s members.
The Arab Charter on Human Rights, to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory, guarantees the right “to freely form and join associations with others” under article 24, the group adds:
Saudi Arabia has no law on associations or criminal code that bars the establishment of associations, but authorities regularly shut down organizations that do not receive operating licenses from the Ministry of Social Affairs.