GENEVA (28 February 2020) – The UN women's rights committee has urged Saudi Arabia to release human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul from prolonged pre-trial detention and ensure without further delay her right to a fair trial.
On 27 February 2018, Al-Hathloul attended a public meeting in Geneva to brief members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on the human rights situation of women in Saudi Arabia. Her briefing formed part of the Committee's review of Saudi Arabia's implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.*
A few weeks later, on 15 May 2018, she was arrested in Saudi Arabia on national security grounds and has been in detention ever since. According to the charges, her arrest was partly based on her engagement with CEDAW.
"Two years on from briefing and engaging with us, Loujain Al-Hathloul remains in detention. We are calling on Saudi Arabia to release her from detention and protect her right to liberty and security of person at all times," said Nahla Haidar, CEDAW member and the Committee's rapporteur on reprisals.
"CEDAW, together with the other UN Treaty Bodies, is clear that no one should face reprisals or intimidation for cooperating or having cooperated with us. Al-Hathloul should be released immediately and Saudi Arabia should ensure her right to a fair trial with full respect for procedural guarantees established by international human rights law, and free from gender bias," she added.
Al Hathloul had been instrumental in the movement in Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive and the push to end male guardianship laws.
The next hearing of her trial is reported to be scheduled for 11 March.
The Committee, which has intervened repeatedly on behalf of Al-Hathloul under its reprisals mandate, has made its latest call in a statement issued to mark the second anniversary of her participation in the review of Saudi Arabia. In it, members voice their appreciation of the engagement with the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations on her case. They also note the efforts that the Government of Saudi Arabia has made to reform discriminatory legislation.
However, the Committee remains concerned by the situation of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, the statement says.
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. The Committee's concluding observations are an independent assessment of States' compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty.
*Saudi Arabia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2000. See CEDAW's latest report on Saudi Arabia.
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