Saudi Arabia: Continuing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of five women rights defenders

19/03/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
SAU 001 / 0319 / OBS 024.3
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Saudi Arabia
March 19, 2020

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mses. Loujain al-Hathloul, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah and Nouf Abdelaziz who have been detained for their peaceful defence of women’s rights following a crackdown that started in May 2018.

According to the information received, on March 18, 2020, the hearings in the trial of Mses. Loujain al-Hathloul, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah and Nouf Abdelaziz was postponed to an unknown date following the closing of the courts due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

On March 10, 2020, the hearings in the trial of Mses. Loujain al-Hathloul and Mayaa al-Zahrani, which were scheduled for March 11, 2020, had already been postponed to March 18, 2020. No reason was then given to justify this postponement.

The Observatory recalls that 2018 saw an unprecedented crackdown against women rights defenders (see background information). Dozens were detained on vague security charges for defending women’s rights. Several were reportedly tortured while in detention. The acts of torture included electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs, rape threats and sexual harassment.

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mses. Loujain al-Hathloul, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, and Nouf Abdelaziz, as well as the ongoing judicial harassment against them as well as against Mses. Aziza al-Youssef, Eman al-Nafjan, Hatoon al-Fassi, Amal al-Harbi, Abeer Namankani and Shadan al-Onezi, who were all temporarily released between March and May 2019, as such harassment seems only to aim at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory calls on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all women rights defenders currently detained in Saud Arabia, and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them.

Background information [1]:

In September 2017, immediately after the announcement of a Royal Decree authorising women to obtain driving licences, the services of the Ministry of Interior contacted women’s rights defenders to ask them not to comment on the new decree in the media. Mid 2018 repression took an unprecedented turning point with the arrest of dozens of women’s rights defenders.

On May 15, 2018, Ms. Loujain Al-Hathloul, who had been involved in campaigns on the right of women to drive, was abducted in the United Arab Emirates, brought to Saudi Arabia against her will, and detained.

On the same day, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, a key figure of women’s fight for their political rights and a supporter of the campaign to abolish male guardianship, and Dr. Eman al-Nafjan, founder and author of the Saudiwoman’s Weblog, who had also been involved in the driving campaign, were arrested and detained.

On June 6, 2018, Ms. Nouf Abdelaziz, a journalist, TV producer and women’s rights defender, was arrested at her home.

On June 27, 2018,Ms. Hatoon al-Fassi, a prominent scholar and associate professor of women’s history at King Saud University, was arrested. She was advocating for the right of women to participate in municipal elections and to drive, and was one of the first women to drive the day the ban was lifted on June 24, 2018. She was set to be interviewed by French media France 2 to talk about the lift of the driving ban shortly after.

Ms. AmalAl-Harbi, a woman human rights defender and the wife of prominent activist Mr. Fowzan Al-Harbi, co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was arrested by State Security on July 30, 2018 while on the seaside with her children in Jeddah.

Ms. Shadan al-Onezi, Ms. Mayaa al-Zahrani, and Ms. Abeer Namankani were also detained later in May 2018.

On July 30, 2018, security forces arrested Ms. Samar Badawi and Ms. Nassima Al-Sadah.

On March 13, 2019, Riyadh Criminal Court summoned Mses. Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Youssef, Eman al-Nafjan, Amal al-Harbi, Hatoon al-Fassi, Shadan al-Onezi, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Nouf Abdelaziz, Abeer Namankani along with a 10th woman human rights defender.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Saudi Arabia, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of the above-mentioned women human rights defenders, as well as of all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Ensure Mses. Loujain al-Hathloul, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Nouf Abdelaziz, Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sadah and the other prosecuted women human rights defenders have unhindered access to their families and lawyers and respect in all circumstances their right to a fair trial;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mses. Loujain al-Hathloul, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Nouf Abdelaziz, Samar Badawi and Nassima Al-Sadah as well as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia and drop all the charges against them, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iv. End all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mses. Aziza al-Youssef, Eman al-Nafjan, Amal al-Harbi, Hatoon al-Fassi, Abeer Namankani, Shadan al-Onezi, Samar Badawi and Nassima Al-Sadah and the other women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia,

v. 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;

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments ratified by Saudi Arabia.

Addresses:

• 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
• 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
• H.E. Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister of Justice, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email: info@moj.gov.sa
• 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
• H.E. Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ; Email: info@mofa.gov.sa
• 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
• 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 missions or embassies of Saudi Arabia in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Saudi Arabia.

***
Paris-Geneva, March 19, 2020

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. 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 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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[1]See Observatory Urgent Appeals SAU 003 / 0518 / OBS 073, SAU 004 / 0718 / OBS 093 and SAU 005 / 0818 / OBS 103, published on May 24, 2018, on July 6, 2018 and on August 14, 2018.

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