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Human Rights Subcommittee Unanimously Calls for Release of Raif Badawi

Posted on February 26, 2015

Motion introduced by Irwin Cotler calls for imprisoned Saudi blogger to be reunited with family in Canada

Ottawa – February 26, 2015 – The House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights today unanimously passed a motion calling on Saudi Arabia to “end the corporal punishment of Raif Badawi, repeal his sentence, release him, and permit him to reunite with his family in Canada.” The motion was introduced by MP Irwin Cotler, Liberal critic for rights and freedoms and international justice, who is also serving as Mr. Badawi’s international legal counsel. Cotler characterized the motion as “a matter of urgency, given the pain and plight of Badawi’s torture and detention.”

Detained by Saudi Arabia since 2012, Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for establishing an online forum and exercising his right to free expression. Saudi Arabia administered the first 50 lashes on January 9, but has postponed subsequent lashings. Badawi’s wife and children have taken refuge in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

The motion further calls for the release of Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and asks the government of Canada “to continue to use all available means” to secure the release of Badawi and al-Khair, and “to bring about the reunification of Raif Badawi with his wife and children in Canada.”

Full text of motion:

Whereas Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

Whereas Saudi Arabia has a lively community of online activists and the highest number of Twitter users in the Middle East;

Whereas flogging as punishment is strictly prohibited under international human rights law, including the United Nations Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified;

Whereas, on June 17, 2012, Raif Badawi, a Saudi human rights activist and blogger, was arrested on a charge of “insulting Islam” through electronic channels and brought to court on several other charges;

Whereas in November 2014, Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, 1000 lashes, a fine of one million riyals, and an additional ten-year prohibition on leaving Saudi Arabia;

Whereas on January 9, 2015, Raif Badawi was subjected to the first 50 lashes of his sentence;

Whereas Reporters without Borders awarded Raif Badawi its 2014 Netizen Prize for Press Freedom;

Whereas the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy awarded Raif Badawi its 2015 Courage Award;

Whereas Raif Badawi has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize;
That the Subcommittee:

Call on Saudi authorities to end the corporal punishment of Raif Badawi, repeal his sentence, release him, and permit him to reunite with his family in Canada;

Call on Saudi authorities release Raif Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and repeal his sentence;

Reaffirm that freedom of expression, including online expression, is an essential foundation for democracy, stability and social development, and therefore strongly condemn the harassment and imprisonment by Saudi Arabia of journalists and others for exercising their right to free speech;

Call on the Government of Canada to continue to use all available means to urge Saudi Arabia to release Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair, and to bring about the reunification of Raif Badawi with his wife and children in Canada.

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