Home » Other News » UN Rapporteurs call for the release of Al-Hathloul and other women rights advocates: Reforms amid on arrests are mere deception

UN Rapporteurs call for the release of Al-Hathloul and other women rights advocates: Reforms amid on arrests are mere deception

لقرائته بالعربية اضغط هنا

UN human rights experts have expressed their concern over the initiation of proceedings against human rights advocate Loujain al-Hathloul in the Specialized Criminal Court (aka Terrorism Court). They called for her immediate release from prison and the dropping of “spurious” charges against her related to exercising her basic rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

In a statement released on 10 December 2020, the rapporteurs noted that al-Hathloul had an active role in the women’s right-to-drive movement and the movement to end the male guardianship system. She was arrested in May 2018.

The statement was signed by Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights advocates; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.


Elizabeth Broderick, the Chair of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, again called on Saudi Arabia to immediately release al-Hathloul, saying she is “a woman human rights defender who has greatly contributed to advancing women’s rights in a country where gender discrimination and stereotyping are deeply entrenched in the fabric of society.”

According to the statement, al-Hathloul was charged with violating Article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which punishes “the production and transmission of material deemed to violate public order, religious values, public morals, and private life.”

Also according to the statement, the Saudi government justified the charges against al-Hathloul on the grounds that she, along with other human rights advocates, “communicated with people and entities hostile to the King, cooperated with journalists and media institutions hostile to the King, and provided financial support to foreign adversaries.” 

The statement noted that al-Hathloul met with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in February 2018 to “share her observations on the state of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.”

Ms. Broderick noted that the Saudi government has a “primary responsibility and duty to protect, promote, and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms and cannot turn a blind eye to the arbitrary detention and allegation of torture of a woman whose only reason for imprisonment was for advancing women’s rights.”

The Special Rapporteur signatories pointed out that al-Hathloul has not been allowed regular contact with her family during her detention. In addition, her trials have been frequently postponed and rescheduled 24 hours prior to the actual hearings, giving her little time to prepare her defense.

At the end of October 2020, according to the statement, Loujain began a hunger strike to protest the conditions of her detention. In the middle of November, she stopped the hunger strike after continued pressure from authorities, who reportedly continually woke her every two hours to pressure her psychologically.

The experts expressed that the recent passage of amendments to reform discriminatory legislation while the rights of women human rights advocates are being violated is “shocking and deceptive.” As Ms. Broderick said, it is not sufficient to pass laws while regularly violating human rights in practice.

The UN experts urged the Saudi government to end the detention of al-Hathloul and all other women human rights advocates and to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the claims of torture while in prison. They added that human rights advocacy must not be considered a threat to national security.

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