Law Society honours Human Rights Defender Waleed Abu al-Khair

Posted: 01/18/2017

Human Rights Defender Waleed Abu al-KhairThe Law Society will honour endangered lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair at the Human Rights Award Celebration on February 22, 2017. He is one of two outstanding recipients of the 2016 Human Rights Award.

“Mr. al-Khair has made extraordinary contributions to the promotion of democracy and the rule of law in Saudi Arabia – which have come at significant personal cost,” says Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas.

Established in 2013, the Human Rights Award is granted biennially.

You are also encouraged to reflect on Waleed Abu al-Khair’s plight, and that of lawyers around the world, on January 24 for the 2017 Day of the Endangered Lawyer.

About Waleed Abu al-Khair

Waleed Abu al-Khair is one of the best-known advocates for democratic and human rights reform in Saudi Arabia.

He has used the written and spoken word coupled with his legal knowledge to fearlessly advocate for reforms to improve the lives of all in Saudi Arabia by calling on the Government of Saudi Arabia to respect and ensure for all the  fundamental rights and freedoms protected by international human rights law.

He has done this work through writing and public speaking, representing causes and clients unpopular with the Government of Saudi Arabia, hosting discussions (Sumoud) about issues of public concern, defending prisoners of conscience and producing hundreds of articles (in Arabic and English), identifying human rights abuses and the need for reform.

He founded the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA), an independent organization registered in Canada that provided information about human rights both in Saudi Arabia and internationally.

At the risk of his own liberty, he persisted in using his training and skills as a lawyer to be an outspoken advocate for an elected parliament, an independent judiciary, a constitutional monarchy and recognition of internationally protected human rights. He recommended reliance on the rule of law and proper legal procedures to effect reform and never advocated or used violence.

Saudi Arabia responded first by offering him money to close MHRSA, apologize and refrain from human rights advocacy. When he refused, the Government of Saudi Arabia set in motion procedures that resulted in his arrest, conviction (on six illegitimate charges) and sentencing to 15 years in prison, a 15 year travel ban and a 200,000SAR fine.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in October 2015 recommended his immediate release after designating his trial as unfair and his detention as arbitrary and in violation of applicable laws and standards. Waleed Abu al-Khair is 37 years old and has been arbitrarily imprisoned since April 15, 2014.