Saudi Arabia: Arrest and ongoing arbitrary detention of nine human rights defenders

24/05/2018
Urgent Appeal

SAU 003 / 0518 / OBS 073
Arbitrary detention / Release
Judicial harassment
Saudi Arabia
May 24, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Saudi Arabia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by ALQST about the arrest and ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights defenders Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah, and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh as well as of the arbitrary arrest, detention and subsequent release of Ms. Aisha al-Mana.

According to the information received, on May 15, 2018 at 2pm, Saudi police forces raided the home of Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, arrested her in her bedroom and transferred her to Al-Ha’ir prison, and then to Dahban prison in Jeddah. As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, she would still be detained in Dahban prison, although nobody has been able to contact her since her arrest. In November 2014, Saudi authorities had previously arrested Ms. al-Hathloul after she drove herself from Abu Dhabi to the Saudi border. She was held at a juvenile detention centre for 73 days before being released in February 2015. The authorities detained her again in June 2017 when she arrived at Dammam airport but released her after several days.

On the same day, women’s rights activist and psychoanalyst Madiha al-Ajroush was also arrested. Through her clinical practice, Ms. al-Ajroush has offered help and psychotherapy to several victims of domestic violence as well as refugee children in camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Within the same context, the authorities arrested prominent women’s rights activist Aziza al-Youssef, from her home. She was one of the first to call for women to be allowed to drive, and has been notably active in defending women’s rights, workers’ rights and civil and political rights. She tried to set up a refuge for battered women and girls who are not accepted back from government social care institutions by their families, but the authorities turned down her application. Pressure had mounted on Ms. al-Youssef over the past year, and she was increasingly called in for questioning. The authorities prevented her from commenting on the Royal Decree allowing women to drive – which she, together with other women’s rights activists, had brought about.

The wave of arrest of May 15, 2018 also targeted well-known blogger and activist Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, a leading campaigner for women’s rights and human rights in general.

On the same day, the authorities arrested Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Dean of Al Mana College and one of Saudi Arabia’s earliest feminists. She took part in the 1990 campaign against the ban on women driving, in which she and some other women drove their cars, and wrote a book on the topic, entitled The Sixth of November. She was previously imprisoned and threatened by the authorities. Ms. Aisha al-Mana was released on May 23, 2018.

Two other women’s rights defenders, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, one of the leading campaigners of the right of women to drive, and Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, a defender of victims of domestic violence as well as campaigner against the male guardianship system, were also arrested on the same day, together with Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah, an active supporter of women’s right to drive.

Authorities also proceeded on May 15, 2018, to the arrest of Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh, a former member of the Saudi Council of Ministers’ Commission of Experts and Saudi Arabia’s most prominent lawyer. Mr. al-Mudaimeegh has handled pro bono defence in some of the most sensitive cases in the country, and took on the cases of several members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). He defended human rights activists Ms. Al-Hathloul and Messrs. Waleed Abu al-Khair, Mohamed al-Oteibi, Abdullah al-Atawi, Essam Koshak, Essa al-Nukhaifi and many other prisoners of conscience. He has also spoke out against Israeli crimes toward the Palestinian people and on other human rights issues, which led authorities to force him to close down hisTwitter account in November 2017. On May 5, 2018, Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh went to the airport on his way to get medical treatment abroad but found himself unexpectedly prevented from travelling, and when he tried to ascertain the reason for the travel ban he was met with personal abuse and threatened with arrest for asking why he had been banned from travelling. He continued to be harassed and threatened until being arrested on May 15, 2018.

As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh are reported to be detained in Dahban prison in Jeddah, under vague accusations of “suspicious contacts with foreign entities” and “financial support to enemies overseas”, which were relayed in pro-governmental media outlets. Yet no formal charges were reportedly pressed against them.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over this wave of above-mentioned arrests and arbitrary detentions, which only seems to aim at sanctioning peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, and fears that the authorities intend to stifle the main dissenting voices ahead of the entry into force on June 24, 2018 of the Royal Decree that will allow women to drive.

The Observatory urges Saudi authorities to release the above-mentioned human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally, and to put an end to all acts of harassment against them as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Saudi Arabia asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah, and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah, and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh, as well as all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah, and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh and all human rights defenders in the country so they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;

iv. Comply in all circumstances with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments.

Addresses:

i. His Majesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email: info@moi.gov.sa; Twitter: @KingSalman
ii. His Excellency, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email: info@moi.gov.sa
iii. H.E. Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister of Justice, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email: info@moj.gov.sa
iv. His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: + 966 11 401 1111 / + 966 11 401 1944 / + 966 11 403 1125; Email: info@moi.gov.sa
v. H.E. Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ; Email: info@mofa.gov.sa
vi. H.E. Abdulaziz Alwasil, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 00 00. Email: saudiamission@bluewin.ch
vii. H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email: beemb@mofa.gov.sa

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Saudi Arabia in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, May 24, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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