From the Gulf Centre for Human Rights:
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reiterates calls for Saudi Arabia to immediately free all human rights defenders who have been jailed for their advocacy for women’s rights. On 27 June 2019, the trial of at least one well-known woman human rights defenders is scheduled, possibly along with other women who have been previously taken to court. Of the dozens of women human rights defenders who were arrested in 2018 during a crackdown on advocates for women’s right to drive, some have not yet been brought to trial.
GCHR is extremely concerned about the reports of torture and the continued use of solitary confinement for women human rights defenders. In particular, it is very worrisome that Nassima Al-Sadah, a writer and women’s rights activist, is still being held in prolonged solitary confinement in a different prison from other women’s rights defenders. Al-Sadah was arrested on 30 July 2018 and has since been detained in Al-Mabahith Prison, run by the General Intelligence Directorate in Al-Dammam city. She was put in solitary confinement immediately after her arrest and then in December 2018 brought to general detention. However, on 20 January 2019 Al-Sadah was again placed in solitary confinement for reasons that are not known. She has now been in solitary confinement for nine months of her detention, a practice which constitutes a prolonged torture. There are reports that suggest she was asked to sign false written confessions, but that she refused. The deprivation of human contact in solitary confinement is currently putting significant pressure on her well-being. Her few allowed calls and monthly short family visits have contributed very little to improve her mental health. She has not yet been brought to court yet, but may possibly be facing trial on 27 June, when at least one other woman human rights defender is known to be appearing in court.
Well-known woman human rights defender Samar Badawiand other women human rights defenders will stand before a closed trial on 27 June 2019. This is the first time she has been brought to court since her arrest on 30 July 2018. Another trial in a series of “unfair” trials is taking place today as the defendants will be trialed unknowing the charges raised against them, without any independent legal representation guaranteeing their rights before the show trial. In other court appearances by women’s rights defenders arrested in 2018, the media, diplomats, international observers and independent human rights organizations have been prevented from entering the courtroom, so presumably the same conditions will apply this week.
One of the most prominent women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, Loujain Al-Hathloul, remains in prison, despite the fact that she was brought to trial with 11 other women, seven of whom have been released. She isbeing held in Dhabhan Prison in Jeddah, where she is
allowed weekly phone calls with her family. She was taken to court 13 March and 27 March 2019, and due in court April 17 but that hearing was cancelled or postponed until after Ramadan (it is unclear which.) There has been no official news that she will be taken to court on 27 June with other women’s rights defenders but diplomats have said privately that she might be expected in court.
Nouf Abdulaziz, a blogger on women’s rights, was arrested on 6 June 2018, and is being held in Dhabhan Prison in Jeddah. She was taken to court 13 March and 27 March 2019, and due in court April 17 but that hearing was cancelled or postponed until after Ramadan (it is unclear which.) There has been no official news that she will be taken to court on 27 June with other women’s rights defenders but diplomats have said privately that she might be expected in court.
Seven women who were brought to trial in March and April 2019 have been temporarily freed, although charges against them have not been dropped. On 2 May 2019, women human rights defenders Dr. Hatoon Al-Fassi, Amal Al-Harbi, Maysaa Al-Manea, Abeer Namankani and Shadan Al-Aneziwere temporarily released. On 28 March 2019, long-time women’s rights campaigner and academic Aziza Al-Youssefand Eman Al-Nafjan, who blogs on women’s rights, were both freed temporarily. It is unknown why other women on trial have not yet been released, although some of them have been.
● Immediately and unconditionally release all detained women human rights defenders and all individuals detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms, and drop all charges against them including against those provisionally released;
● Immediately move Nassima Al-Sadah from solitary confinement as long as she remains in prison;
● Conduct prompt, effective and credible investigations into all allegations of torture, hold perpetrators accountable and provide victims with effective remedy in line with international standards; and
● Immediately abolish the male guardianship system and repeal other laws that discriminate against women and girls in Saudi Arabia.