Saudi Arabia
Urgent Interventions

Arrest and ongoing arbitrary detention of nine human rights defenders

SAU003 / 0518 / OBS 073

Arbitrarydetention / Release



May24, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, apartnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requestsyour urgent intervention in the following situation in Saudi Arabia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by ALQST about the arrest and ongoingarbitrary detention of human rights defenders Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, Ms. Azizaal-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush,Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammedal-Rabiah, and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh as well as of the arbitraryarrest, detention and subsequent release of Ms. Aisha al-Mana.

According to the information received, on May 15, 2018 at 2pm, Saudipolice forces raided the home of Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, arrested her in herbedroom and transferred her to Al-Ha'ir prison, and then to Dahban prison inJeddah. As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, she would still be detained in Dahbanprison, although nobody has been able to contact her since her arrest. InNovember 2014, Saudi authorities had previously arrested Ms. al-Hathloul aftershe drove herself from Abu Dhabi to the Saudi border. She was held at ajuvenile detention centre for 73 days before being released in February 2015.The authorities detained her again in June 2017 when she arrived at Dammamairport but released her after several days.

On the same day, women's rights activist and psychoanalyst Madihaal-Ajroush was also arrested. Through her clinical practice, Ms. al-Ajroush hasoffered help and psychotherapy to several victims of domestic violence as wellas refugee children in camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Within the same context, the authorities arrested prominent women’srights activist Aziza al-Youssef, from her home. She was one of the first tocall for women to be allowed to drive, and has been notably active in defendingwomen’s rights, workers’ rights and civil and political rights. She tried toset up a refuge for battered women and girls who are not accepted back fromgovernment social care institutions by their families, but the authoritiesturned down her application. Pressure had mounted on Ms. al-Youssef over thepast year, and she was increasingly called in for questioning. The authoritiesprevented her from commenting on the Royal Decree allowing women to drive –which she, together with other women’s rights activists, had brought about.

The wave of arrest of May 15, 2018 also targeted well-known blogger andactivist Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, a leading campaigner for women’s rights and humanrights in general.

On the same day, the authorities arrested Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Dean of AlMana College and one of Saudi Arabia’s earliest feminists. She took part in the1990 campaign against the ban on women driving, in which she and some other womendrove their cars, and wrote a book on the topic, entitled The Sixth ofNovember. She was previously imprisoned and threatened by the authorities. Ms.Aisha al-Mana was released on May 23, 2018.

Two other women's rights defenders, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, one of theleading campaigners of the right of women to drive, and Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, adefender of victims of domestic violence as well as campaigner against the maleguardianship system, were also arrested on the same day, together with Mr.Mohammed al-Rabiah, an active supporter of women’s right to drive.

Authorities also proceeded on May 15, 2018, to the arrest of Mr. Ibrahimal-Mudaimeegh, a former member of the Saudi Council of Ministers’ Commission ofExperts and Saudi Arabia’s most prominent lawyer. Mr. al-Mudaimeegh has handledpro bono defence in some of the most sensitive cases in the country, and tookon the cases of several members of the Saudi Civil and Political RightsAssociation (ACPRA). He defended human rights activists Ms. Al-Hathloul andMessrs. Waleed Abu al-Khair, Mohamed al-Oteibi, Abdullahal-Atawi, Essam Koshak, Essa al-Nukhaifi and many otherprisoners of conscience. He has also spoke out against Israeli crimes towardthe Palestinian people and on other human rights issues, which led authoritiesto force him to close down his Twitteraccount in November 2017. On May 5, 2018, Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh went to theairport on his way to get medical treatment abroad but found himselfunexpectedly prevented from travelling, and when he tried to ascertain thereason for the travel ban he was met with personal abuse and threatened witharrest for asking why he had been banned from travelling. He continued to beharassed and threatened until being arrested on May 15, 2018.

As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef,Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush, Ms. HessahAl-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah and Mr. Ibrahimal-Mudaimeegh are reported to be detained in Dahban prison inJeddah, under vague accusations of “suspicious contacts with foreign entities”and “financial support to enemies overseas”, which were relayed inpro-governmental media outlets. Yet no formal charges were reportedly pressedagainst them.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concernover this wave of above-mentioned arrests and arbitrary detentions, which onlyseems to aim at sanctioning peaceful and legitimate human rights activities,and fears that the authorities intend to stifle the main dissenting voicesahead of the entry into force on June 24, 2018 of the Royal Decree that willallow women to drive.

The Observatory urges Saudi authorities torelease the above-mentioned human rights defendersimmediately and unconditionally, and to putan end to all acts of harassment against them as well as all human rightsdefenders in Saudi Arabia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Saudi Arabia askingthem to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical andpsychological integrity of Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, Ms. Loujainal-Hathloul, Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh,Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah, and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh aswell as all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Emanal-Nafjan, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Madihaal-Ajroush, Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah,and Mr. Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh, aswell as all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, as theirdetention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for theirlegitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment,including at the judicial level, against Ms. Eman al-Nafjan, Ms. Azizaal-Youssef, Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, Ms. Aisha al-Mana, Ms. Madiha al-Ajroush,Ms. Hessah Al-Sheikh, Ms. Walaa Al-Shubbar, Mr. Mohammed al-Rabiah, and Mr.Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh and all humanrights defenders in the country so they are able to carry out their workwithout unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;

iv. Comply in all circumstances with allthe provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, inparticular its Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;

v. More generally, ensure in allcircumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with international human rights standards and instruments.


i. His Majesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia andCustodian of the two Holy Mosques, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11403 3125; Email:; Twitter:@KingSalman

ii. His Excellency, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of SaudiArabia, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email:

iii. H.E. Waleed bin Mohammad Al Samaani, Minister of Justice, Kingdom ofSaudi Arabia, Fax: + 966 11 405 7777; Email:

iv. His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz BinSaud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.Fax: + 966 11 401 1111 / + 966 11 401 1944 / + 966 11 403 1125; Email:

v. H.E. Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister ofForeign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ; Email:

vi. H.E. Abdulaziz Alwasil, Ambassador,Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Officein Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 00 00. Email:

vii.H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of SaudiArabia in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations ofSaudi Arabia in your respective countries.


Paris-Geneva, May 24, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting thecode of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, isdedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer themconcrete support in their time of need. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:


· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 1880

· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29