GENEVA (27 September 2019) – UN human rights experts have joined forces to urge Saudi Arabia to release Loujain Al-Hathloul whose arrest 500 days ago marked the start of a crackdown against women human rights defenders across the country.
Ms Al-Hathloul, who was detained on spurious national security grounds, had been instrumental in the movement to allow women to drive, and the push to end male guardianship laws. Saudi Arabia has since received international commendation for its recent efforts to reform discriminatory legislation in these areas.
"It is shockingly hypocritical that Ms Al-Hathloul remains in prison for campaigning to change laws which have since been amended. Indeed, she should never have been imprisoned in the first place for exercising her fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association." the experts* said.
"In spite of recent improvements in Saudi Arabia's male guardianship laws, it is imperative that the world does not lose sight of the human rights concerns which persist in the country, as human rights defenders have continued to express."
Ms Al-Hathloul, who was arrested on 15 May 2018, has said that she has been tortured during her incarceration, but no inquiry into her allegations has taken place. It is also alleged that she turned down a deal offering her freedom in exchange for recanting her statements. Her last hearing, which was scheduled for April 2019, was cancelled, and no new date has been set.
"We call upon the Government to immediately release Ms Al-Hathloul and all other human rights defenders in Saudi prisons, and urge the Government to launch a prompt, effective and independent investigation into whether she has been tortured," the experts said.
"No one should suffer such adversity for exercising their right to defend the human rights of others."
UN human rights experts have raised their concerns with the Saudi Government over the crackdown on women human rights defenders on a number of occasions**.
(*) The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights of opinion and expression; Ms Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia), Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ms Fionnuala NÍ Aoláin (Ireland), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms Elizabeth Broderick (Australia), Ms Alda Facio (Costa Rica), Ms Ivana RadačIć (Croatia), Ms Meskerem Geset Techane (Ethiopia, Chair), Ms Melissa Upreti (Nepal), Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule (Togo), Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Nils Melzer (Switzerland), Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page — Saudi Arabia
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