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Crackdown on WHRDs in Saudi Arabia

Status: 
Detained & Charged
About the situation

On 26 October 2020, woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul began an open-ended hunger strike in protest against her detention conditions and against the continued arbitrary refusal to permit regular phone calls with her family.

On 31 August 2020, the family of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul were able to visit her for the first time in three months.

21 July 2020: The family of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul have been unable to contact her for the past six weeks, causing them to grow increasingly concerned for her well-being.

28 May 2020: The family of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul are increasingly concerned for her well-being as they have not heard from her in two weeks. This has led them to worry for her health and her whereabouts.

On 12 February 2020, woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul was presented before the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh. Before the second hearing of her case, she had been held in solitary confinement for 287 days.

On 13 March, Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Nouf Abdulaziz, Mayya Alzahrani, Amal Alharbi, Eman Alnafjan appeared before court, and were charged with “communicating with external hostile powers, providing financial support to external parties, and luring and exploiting minors to work against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

On 15 May 2018, Saudi authorities detained human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul at her home in Riyadh amid an ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders, including women's rights defenders. She has not yet faced charges.

About Loujain Al-Hathloul

Lujain Al-HathloulLoujain Al-Hathloul is a women's rights defender and blogger who has advocated for gender equality and women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia. She has been actively participating in the Saudi Women Driving Campaign since 2013, and has posted videos of herself encouraging women to drive their cars within the context of this campaign.

29 October 2020
Loujain Al-Hathloul begins open ended hunger strike

On 26 October 2020, woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul began an open-ended hunger strike in protest against her detention conditions and against the continued arbitrary refusal to permit regular phone calls with her family. The woman human rights defender has been frequently harassed by the prison administration who have previously blocked family visits and phone calls. On 31 August 2020, was she permitted to meet with her family after being cut off for three months. While she can intermittently meet with her family, poor prison conditions, mistreatment and the continued restriction of her communication with her family by phone has motivated her to go on hunger strike until appropriate conditions are restored.

8 September 2020
Family of Loujain Al-Hathloul permitted to visit her

On 31 August 2020, the family of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul were able to visit her for the first time in three months. Before the family visit, Loujain Al-Hathloul was on a hunger strike for 6 days to protest against the ban on her from making phone calls, which highly affected her health condition. The woman human rights defender suspended her hunger strike after the family visit was permitted.

 

21 July 2020
Family of Loujain Al-Hathloul unable to contact her

The family of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul have been unable to contact her for the past six weeks, causing them to grow increasingly concerned for her well-being. Her family are particularly concerned in the context of COVID-19 and the unsanitary conditions in many Saudi prisons. They have also been prevented from visiting her and as a result, have not seen her in four months.

The defender has been arbitrarily detained since May 2018 and during this time has been subjected to torture and sexual harassment by prison authorities.

28 May 2020
Loujain Al-Hathlou's family concerned for her well-being

The family of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul are increasingly concerned for her well-being as they have not heard from her in two weeks. This has led them to worry for her health and her whereabouts.

May 2020 marks two years since the arbitrary detention of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul. During her detention she has been subjected to torture and sexual harassment. Loujain Al-Hathloul's third hearing was scheduled to take place on 11 March 2020, but was rescheduled to an undisclosed date as a result of COVID-19.

14 February 2020
Second hearing of Loujain Al-Hathloul

On 12 February 2020, woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul was presented before the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh. Before the second hearing of her case, she had been held in solitary confinement for 287 days.

During this session Loujain Al-Hathloul submitted her defence. She was asked to give a response in the next hearing session scheduled for 11 March 2020, but without access to evidences used against her. During the hearing, the Public Prosecutor denied that the defender had been tortured.

The prison administration recently asked Loujain Al-Hathloul to stop her correspondence with the Human Rights Commission, which she refused.

Loujain Al-Hathloul was detained in May 2018. She has been subjected to torture and sexual harassment in prison. She is facing charges of “communicating with external hostile powers, providing financial support to external parties, and luring and exploiting minors to work against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

13 March 2019
Loujain Al-Hathloul and WHRDs brought to court and charged

On 13 March, Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Nouf Abdulaziz, Mayya Alzahrani, Amal Alharbi, Eman Alnafjan appeared before court, and were charged with “communicating with external hostile powers, providing financial support to external parties, and luring and exploiting minors to work against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The WHRDs were not informed of the charges before the hearing, and were not permitted to speak during the proceedings. No lawyers and no foreign journalists were permitted to attend the hearing. They were due to appear before a special court established for terrorism cases, but this was changed at the last minute to a criminal court.

Prior to the hearing today, reports have emerged about the WHRDs facing sexual harassment and torture in prison, and have previously been denied access to lawyers.

21 May 2018
Ongoing crackdown on women human rights' defenders   

On 15 May 2018, Saudi authorities detained human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul at her home in Riyadh amid an ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders, including women's rights defenders. She has not yet faced charges.

View Urgent Appeal

Loujain Al-Hathloul is a women's rights defenders and blogger who has advocated for gender equality and women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia. She has been actively participating in the Saudi Women Driving Campaign since 2013, and has posted videos of herself encouraging women to drive their cars within the context of this campaign.

On 17 May, Saudi authorities detained Loujain Al-Hathloul, along with several other human rights defenders and activists who have been campaigning for women's rights. Among the other detainees are Dr. Ibrahim AlModaimeegh, Dr. Aisha AlMana, Madeha AlAjroush, Aziza AlYousef, Professor Eman AlNafjan, and Mohammad AlRabea. Loujain Al-Hathloul is being held in incommunicado detention and denied an access to her lawyers and family.  

This is not the first time the Saudi authorities have have targeted Loujain Al-Hathlul. She was briefly detained in June 2017 at Dammam airport and banned from travelling. She was also arrested in December 2014 and spent more than two months in detention on charges of "breaching public order" and "overriding the guardian's authority".

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned about the detention of human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul and is worried about her safety and physical well being. 

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Loujain Al-Hathloul and other human rights defenders who have been recently detained, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being held solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful human rights work;

2. Allow Loujain Al-Halthloul immediate and unfettered access to her family and her lawyers;

3. Ensure that Loujain Al-Hathloul's treatment, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the 'Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

4. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Loujain Al-Hathloul;

5. Cease targeting all human rights defenders and bloggers in Saudi Arabia in all circumstances, so that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.