NEWS.- On 30 October 2015, the European Parliament awarded Saudi blogger Raif Badawi with the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought. In 2014 Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 whiplashes after being accused of insulting Islam on his website.
In 2008, Raif Badawi along with Souad al-Shamani, a Saudi women’s rights defender, created a website called “Free Saudi Liberals”, which promoted religious liberalization and served as a forum of discussion for the online community. The website was later accused of insulting Islam and of compromising the general security, which resulted in Raif’s arrest adding him to the list of eminent activists that have been given long prison sentences for their pacifist militancy.
The European Parliament described Badawi as a blogger who “courageously expressed his ideas and doubts on certain of his country’s rules considered as excessively restrictive, and who sought to defend freedom of expression for all Saudis”. According to Lotte Leicht, Human Rights Watch Advocacy Director to the European Union, “the attribution of the Sakharov Prize to Raif Badawi represents a strong message to the Saudi government, indicating that it is time to stop its intolerant practices towards its citizens who try and defend human rights and promote reforms”. She added that “King Salman should immediately order the release of Raif Badawi as well as other activists and pacifist dissidents who a serving long prison sentences”.
Freedom of expression is a human right and the accusations against Badawi are solely based on the fact that he has pacifically exercised this right. By doing so, the Saudi government is violating Badawi’s rights to freedom of expression and opinion contained in the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which was adopted by the Council of Arab States, of which Saudi Arabia is a party, on 22 May 2004 and affirms the principles contained in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam.
Moreover, Badawi has already received 50 whiplashes on 9 January 2015, during a public flogging in the front of Djuffali Mosque, in central Djeddah. This punishment is unacceptable seeing that Saudi Arabia has also ratified, in 1997, the Convention against torture and other inhumane treatment. International human rights law strictly forbids judicial verdicts that impose corporal punishment, including flogging, as acts of torture or as inhumane or degrading treatment.
Badawi was one of the three finalists for the award. The other two finalists were Venezuela’s democratic opposition, comprised of an electoral coalition that gathers the opposition to Hugo Chavez’s party, and Boris Nemtsov, a Russian physicist and former prime minister who was killed in February 2015 because of his activism for democracy and against corruption.
Human Rights Watch website, Arabie Saoudite: Attribution du prix Sakharov à Raif Badawi, https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2015/10/30/arabie-saoudite-attribution-du-prix-sakharov-raif-badawi, accessed on 02.11.2015
The Atlantic website, An Award for a Jailed Saudi Blogger, http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/10/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-sakharov-prize/413002/, accessed on 02.11.2015
Human rights.ch website, Arab Charter on Human Rights, http://www.humanrights.ch/en/standards/other-regions-instruments/arab-charter-on-human-rights/, accessed on 02.11.2015
European Parliament website, Prix Sakharov 2015: les trois finalistes sont Raif Badawi, l’opposition démocratique au Venezuela et Boris Nemtsov, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/fr/news-room/content/20151015STO97807/html/Les-trois-finalistes-du-Prix-Sakharov-2015-r%C3%A9v%C3%A9l%C3%A9s, accessed on 02.11.2015