Home » Reports » After her hunger strike against abuses, UN committee demands Saudi Arabia to immediately release Al-Hathloul and other women detainees

After her hunger strike against abuses, UN committee demands Saudi Arabia to immediately release Al-Hathloul and other women detainees

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The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has called for the immediate release of human rights advocate Loujain al-Hathloul and all female rights advocates detained in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In a statement issued on 5 November 2020, the committee expressed its concern over al-Hathloul’s deteriorating health, who has been on hunger strike since 26 October 2020 in protest of her prolonged detention. The committee also expressed its concerns over information regarding the conditions of al-Hathloul’s imprisonment, including reports that she was not allowed regular contact with her family.

At the same time, dozens of women detainees also suffer in prisons as al-Hathloul protests against her ill treatment and the denial of her right to regular contact and visitation. ESOHR has monitored the ongoing detention of 53 women, some of whom are human rights advocates, as well as previously documented the arrests of nearly 100 women in recent years.

In its statement, CEDAW noted that al-Hathloul had taken part in promoting women’s rights in her country via campaigns to allow women to drive and to end male guardianship laws. Al-Hathloul met with CEDAW in February 2018 to share her observations on the status of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Three months after this meeting, she was arrested and detained on national security grounds, which, according to the charges against her, includes her interaction with CEDAW

In February of this year, Saudi Arabia had assured CEDAW that al-Hathloul’s trial was to be held in March. However, the hearing has been postponed many times since then and remains pending without any set date for the case to resume.

CEDAW’s statement urged Saudi Arabia to protect al-Hathloul’s right to life, health, freedom, and personal security at all times, affirming that male and female human rights advocates have the right to communicate with the UN, and should do so without fear or retribution of any kind.

CEDAW also confirmed that al-Hathloul and the other female human rights advocates are powerful voices on the ground who bring invaluable insights to the world.

On 28 February 2020, CEDAW called upon King Salman to use his royal powers to secure al-Hathloul’s release. Moreover, CEDAW praised all the other female human rights advocates throughout the world who face reprisals as a result of their promotion of the human rights of women, gender equality, and non-discrimination.

ESOHR stresses that al-Hathloul’s hunger strike sounds the alarm for her well-being, as well as that of the other female human rights advocates who have been detained for more than two years. It also confirms that Saudi Arabia is ignoring the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s report on Loujain, CEDAW’s demands, and all the international voices that have called for Loujain’s immediate release. Meanwhile, the government continues to delay her sentencing. These actions confirm the retaliatory approach that Saudi Arabia has adopted against women, in general, and female human rights advocates, in particular.

Having already documented women detainees’ exposure to varying levels of abuse, from insults to torture and sexual harassment, ESOHR emphasizes that al-Hathloul’s hunger strike should warrant more serious steps toward protecting women detainees, holding violators and torturers accountable, and ending the policy of impunity that allows more violations and threatens these women’s lives and well-being.

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