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Saudi lawyer to receive 2019 ABA Human Rights Award

Saudi lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair will be honored with the ABA 2019 ABA International Human Rights Award in recognition of his work to advance human rights and advocate for justice in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The award will be presented during a dinner at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, at 7:30 p.m. August 8 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. 

Waleed Abu al-Khair

Waleed Abu al-Khair

The award was established to honor and recognize a lawyer, human rights luminary or international human rights organization that has made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights outside of the United States. The award is given on behalf of the ABA Center for Human Rights, Section of International Law, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Section of Litigation and Rule of Law Initiative.

Abu al-Khair founded Monitor for Human Rights in 2008, one of a few human rights organizations in Saudi Arabia. He has dedicated his career to defending human rights and the right to freedom of expression, even after government authorities banned him in 2009 from representing specific defendants. Abu al-Khair also has advocated for an elected parliament, independent judiciary and other democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia.

Abu al-Khair was arrested in 2014 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his human rights activism under an “anti-terrorism” law that was put in place halfway through his trial. When he refused to apologize for his alleged offenses, his full sentence was upheld by a Saudi appeals court in 2015.

“Waleed Abu al-Khair’s courage promoting human rights in Saudi Arabia should be lauded by all lawyers,” said ABA President Bob Carlson. “He has made tremendous sacrifices, including to his own liberty, to improve the lives of others in his home country. It is our hope that this award shines a spotlight on his work, helps free him from his unwarranted incarceration and inspires legal professionals around the world to continue to work for justice and the rule of law.”

The 2019 ABA Annual Meeting will be held August 7-13 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. 

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