On Saturday, UN experts sent a formal appeal, calling on Saudi Arabia to revoke the death penalty imposed upon Mohammad Al Ghamdi. He is accused of social media dissent. Saudi security services arrested Ghamdi on June 11 for a number of criminal charges related to his social networking commentary. These charges encompassed accusations of “betrayal of religion, country, and leadership,” “propagation of false information with the intent to disrupt public order and undermine security,” and “endorsement of terrorist ideologies and affiliation with a terrorist group.”
Expressing concern, the UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, have strongly criticized the severity of the penalties imposed on Ghamdi. They argue that these punitive measures blatantly contravene established international legal norms and “human rights standards.”
On July 10, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court convicted Ghamdi and sentenced him to death. The court justified this harsh judgment by claiming that Ghamdi committed a “heinous” crime that attracted worldwide attention through a prominent media outlet. UN human rights experts, however, have stated that merely expressing one’s critical views on the internet is not enough to justify the death penalty under international law. Furthermore, they have firmly stated that the alleged offences do not unequivocally fall into the “most serious” crimes category.
There has been an escalating crackdown in Saudi Arabia, targeting individuals who have utilized social media and the internet to express their opinions. Amnesty International has documented 15 cases where individuals were sentenced to prison for peaceful online activities. The sentences ranged from 10 to 40 years. One of these cases was the imprisonment a Saudi woman who received the longest prison sentence recorded for peaceful expression online.