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Amidst a Series of Arbitrary Arrests: Saudi Arrests Prominent Womens Rights Activists and Human Rights Lawyer, Amongst Others

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On 17 May 2018, the Government of Saudi Arabia launched a series of arbitrary arrests of activists.

In light of the difficulty in accessing all the names of detainees, due to fears surrounding the circulation of news of arbitrary arrests which were conducted under intimidation of the government, the information indicates that the names of detainees confirmed to date are: Dr. Muhammad al-Rabiah, Dr. Ibrahim al-Mudaymigh, and the activists Lujain al-Hothlool, Aziza al-Yousef and Iman al-Nafjan. The detainees are prominent activists in the field of human rights and the defense of women’s rights, particularly with regards to the right to drive, which has been denied for decades, before the ban was lifted in September 2017.

The activist Loujain al-Hathlool, who was arrested from her home in Riyadh on May 17, 2018, was subjected to several violations due to her activism. The most recent violation involved preventing her in the last month, from traveling and completing her studies in the UAE. In addition, in June 2017, she was arrested, detained and interrogated about her activism. She was also detained in November 2014 for 73 days because of her defiance of the womens driving ban. In November 2015, Al-Hathlool announced her candidacy for the elections, but her name was never announced in the nomination lists.

In addition to al-Hathlool, the Saudi government arrested the activist Aziza al-Yousef, who played a leading role in the women’s movement demanding the right of driving the car. She is also known for her defense of human rights and prisoners of conscience.

The arrest campaign also targeted activist Iman al-Nafjan, who had previously been harassed for her role in the campaign to claim the right of women to drive.

Among the names confirmed, is the lawyer Ibrahim al- Mudaymigh, who was suddenly and arbitrarily prevented from traveling a week ago, and who played a role in defending prisoners of conscience, including: detainees of the Association of Civil and Political Rights, as well as the detainee sentenced to death on charges of atheism Ahmed al-Shammari, and detainees on charges of spying for Iran, including detainee Abbas al-Hassan, who the United Nations special rapporteurs raised concerns regarding the fairness of his trial.

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) considers that the recent arbitrary arrests of human rights activists are part of the government’s approach to individuals who have contributed to human rights issues domestically and globally. The arrests also represent a repudiation of these roles and send a message of intimidation to the rest of the activists to lmit any future activity. In addition, these arrests confirm that the reform claims promoted by the government are not sincere, and hide behind them repress to all groups of people that are hidden behind official media campaigns.

ESOHR calls for the immediate release of all detainees arbitrarily and guarantees the right to express opinion and secure a safe environment for the work of human rights defenders.

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