Another Human Rights Prize for Al-Lahem

Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, the well-known Saudi lawyer, was awarded earlier this year the International Human Rights Lawyer Award from the American Bar Association, but sadly he could not receive the award in person because he is not allowed to travel outside the country.

This week, al-Lahem has received another honor, winning the 2008 Human Rights Defender award from Human Rights Watch (HRW). The international organization called the Saudi government to immediately lift the ban on foreign travel for al-Lahem so that he can attend the award ceremonies in London, Paris, and Geneva this November.

“Barring al-Lahem from travel only highlights the severe and arbitrary limits to basic freedoms and fairness in the kingdom,” Christoph Wilcke, senior researcher on Saudi Arabia at HRW said.

I hope these calls will not fall on deaf ears, and I hope to see our two local human rights organizations make a statement, not just on behalf of al-Lahem, but also for all activists who has been working to promote the culture of citizens’ rights. It has been almost four years since the travel ban was imposed on the lawyer who has shown exceptional courage in his relentless effort to defend human rights in the Kingdom. Once again, it is about time.

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Al-Lahem Awarded Human Rights Prize

LahemAbdul-Rahman al-Lahem, the brave Saudi lawyer and human rights activist, has received the International Human Rights Lawyer Award from the American Bar Association (ABA). He said this award “values the work of a large group of activists in Saudi society who are defending human rights.”

Al-Lahem’s name has become associated with a series of high-profile cases in the country where he volunteered to defend people against the government and the official religious establishment. He has been a vocal critic to the judicial system and this has gained him many enemies among the conservatives.

He certainly deserves to be awarded, but here comes the sad part: he will not be able to receive the award in person during a conference held in Vienna in July unless a four-year-old travel ban imposed on him by the authorities here is lifted.

I think the ban has been imposed on him following his defense for the the three so-called “constitutional reformists” back in 2004. At the time, he was jailed for defending their right in a fair trial. He later was pardoned along with the reformists and a fifth activist shortly after King Abdullah ascended the throne.