GENEVA (5 November 2020) – The worsening health of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, who has been on hunger strike since 26 October to protest against her prolonged detention, is deeply alarming, the UN women’s rights committee said today. The Committee called for the immediate release of Al-Hathloul and all other women human rights defenders in detention.
“The Committee is seriously concerned by recent information concerning the conditions of Ms. Al-Hathloul’s prolonged detention, including reports that she is not allowed regular contact with her family,” the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said.
Al-Hathloul was involved in promoting women’s rights in her country, including through campaigns to allow women to drive and to end male guardianship laws. She met the Committee in February 2018 to share her observations on the state of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Three months after the meeting, she was arrested and has since been detained on national security grounds, partly based on her engagement with the Committee, according to the charges against her.
Saudi Arabia assured the Committee in February this year that Al-Hathloul’s trial would take place in March. However, the hearing has been postponed several times since then.
The Committee urged the Saudi authorities to protect Al-Hathloul’s rights to life, health, and liberty and security of person at all times. “Human rights defenders have the right to communication with the UN, and they should do so free from fear or retribution of any sort,” the experts said.
Al-Hathloul and other women human rights defenders are regarded as key partners by the Committee, “Women human rights defenders bring voices from the ground and invaluable insights,” CEDAW stressed.
Ahead of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November, the Committee appealed to His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to use his royal prerogative powers to ensure the release of Loujain Al-Hathloul from detention.
The Committee also paid tribute to all other women human rights defenders around the world who face reprisals because of their work to defend women’s human rights and advocate for gender equality and non-discrimination.
The full statement is available online.
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The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties. The Committee is made up of 23 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
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