WGAD adopted an opinion on September 1, 2023, concluding that serious violations against Dr. Awad Al-Qarni make his detention arbitrary.
WGAD received credible information about the case of Dr. Awad bin Mohammed Al-Qarni, a Saudi academic and religious scholar detained in 2020 on charges of ‘belonging to a terrorist group’ and ‘using social media to express his opinions.
WGAD sent a letter to the government of Saudi Arabia on May 12, 2023, requesting information about Al-Qarni’s situation, including the legal basis for his arrest and the measures taken by the government to ensure respect for his fundamental rights.
On July 4, 2023, the Saudi government responded to the experts’ letter, stating that Al-Qarni is detained under Saudi anti-terrorism law. The government claimed that Al-Qarni is a member of a terrorist group.
After reviewing the information provided by the Saudi government, WGAD concluded that Al-Qarni’s detention is arbitrary. WGAD found that Al-Qarni’s detention lacks a clear legal basis, and the Saudi government has not provided any evidence to support its claims against him. Additionally, Al-Qarni was not granted a fair trial, was not informed of the charges against him, and was not allowed to communicate with his lawyer or family.
WGAD noted that the government did not provide any evidence that Al-Qarni’s social media posts involved violence or incited others to act violently, despite its claim that he was tried based on evidence supporting criminal charges. WGAD observed that Mr. Al-Qarni was exercising his rights peacefully and that his behavior falls within the scope of freedom of opinion and expression protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that depriving him of his freedom is not consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
WGAD confirmed that Dr. Awad Al-Qarni was subjected to enforced disappearance, was not provided with a lawyer for his defense, and noted that the Specialized Criminal Court is not sufficiently independent of the Ministry of Interior and cannot be considered an independent and impartial court enjoying the presumption of innocence and necessary guarantees for defense. WGAD believes that Mr. Al-Qarni’s trial before this court is inconsistent with Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
WGAD issued the following opinion:
- The deprivation of liberty of Awad bin Mohammed Al-Qarni, for violating Articles 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, II, III, and V.
- WGAD requests the government of Saudi Arabia to take necessary steps to rectify Mr. Al-Qarni’s situation without delay and make it compliant with relevant international standards, including those set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Considering all circumstances of the case, WGAD deems the appropriate solution to be the immediate release of Mr. Al-Qarni and granting him a right to enforceable compensation and other forms of reparation, in accordance with international law.
- WGAD urges the government to ensure a full and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Al-Qarni and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for violating his rights.