COTLER CALL FOR RELEASE OF RAIF BADAWI ENGAGES CLOSE TO 1.5 MILLION PEOPLE;
Global leaders of civil society and Parliaments join in
Montreal – December 8, 2016 – The Hon. Irwin Cotler, who is acting as international legal counsel to imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, today called on the Saudi government to immediately release Badawi, and allow him to be reunited with his wife and children in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Through a digital campaign, Cotler – Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights – was joined by leaders of civil society and Parliaments from around the world in calling on Saudi Arabia to “do the right thing: release imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi to his family in Canada”.
The international call for Badawi’s release comes on the eve of International Human Rights Day, and on the occasion of Badawi receiving the distinguished Liberal International award for Freedom. Said Cotler: “Raif Badawi’s unjust imprisonment and torture in detention constitute a standing violation of his fundamental rights and freedoms – an assault on freedom of belief and expression, on prohibitions against torture, on the right to a fair hearing – in a word, the criminalization of freedom.” The award is another rebuke for Saudi Arabia, which recently lost its bid for observer status at La Francophonie, with both Prime Minister Trudeau and Quebec Premier Couillard referencing Badawi’s continued imprisonment as the reason for Saudi Arabia’s exclusion.
Reaching close to 1.5 million people on social media, the call was joined by the European Parliament, the U.S. Congress Human Rights Commission, the Co-Chairs of Canada’s Raoul Wallenberg All-Party Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights, Australian MPs, the Liberal International, and was underpinned by the support of civil society leaders and NGOS from both here in Canada and across the globe. This included, among others, Reporters Without Borders, PEN, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Foundation, Amnesty International Chapters, Mohamed Fahmy Foundation, and the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom.
Detained by Saudi Arabia since 2012, Badawi has since 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 2015, but has postponed subsequent lashings.