Saudi Arabia
Urgent Interventions

Continuing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of 10 women human rights defenders

New information

SAU 001 / 0319 / OBS 024

Arbitrary detention /

Judicial harassment

Saudi Arabia

March 15, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Saudi Arabia.


The Observatory has been informed by reliablesources about the continuing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of 10women human rights defenders who were detained after May 2018 for theirpeaceful defence of women’s rights, including Msses. Loujain al-Hathloul,Aziza al-Youssef, Eman al-Nafjan, Amal al-Harbi, Hatoonal-Fassi, Shadan al-Onezi, Mayaa al-Zahrani, NoufAbdelaziz, and Abeer Namankani[1].

According to the information received, onMarch 13, 2019, Riyadh Criminal Court held the first hearing in cases againstthe 10 above mentioned women human rights defenders. They are accused of“undermining the public order, religious values, good morals and private life”under Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law for expressing their opinion,conducting human rights work, communicating with “hostile parties”, humanrights organisations and personalities, as well as cooperating with UnitedNations mechanisms. Several of the accused have been reportedlytortured while in detention, in particular to obtain confessions. The acts oftorture included electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs, rape threatsand sexual harassment.

Eight hours before the session, the StateSecurity informed the accused that the hearing, initially scheduled beforeRiyadh Specialised Criminal Court (SCC)[2]would take place at Riyadh Criminal Court.

None of the accused have had access to alawyer since their arrest. One of the 10, Ms. Nouf Abdelaziz, failed to appearbefore the court, for unknown reasons.

The Prosecution requested the court to applythe upper limit of sentences provided under Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber CrimeLaw as well as other punishments, that were not specified yet. Offences underArticle 6 carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail. The next hearing willtake place on March 27, 2019.

The Observatory recalls that several women’s rights defenders, both maleand female, have been detained since May 2018, in an attempt to silence thewomen’s rights movement in Saudi Arabia.

The Observatory strongly condemns thecontinuing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of the tenabove-mentioned women human rights defenders, which seems to be only aimed atpunishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatorycalls on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release allthe women’s rights defenders in the country and guarantee in all circumstancestheir physical integrity and psychological well-being.

Background information[3]:

Ms. Loujain Al-Hathloul, who was defendingthe right of women to drive, was abducted in the United Arab Emirates on May15, 2018, brought to Saudi Arabia against her will, and arbitrarily detained.In the following days, other prominent women’s rights defenders were arrestedand detained across the country.

On the same day, Ms. Aziza al-Youssef, a keyfigure of women’s fight for their political rights and a supporter of thecampaign to abolish male guardianship, and Dr. Eman al-Nafjan, founderand author of the Saudiwoman’s Weblog, who had previouslyprotested against the driving ban, were arrested and detained.

On June 6, 2018, Ms. Nouf Abdelaziz, ajournalist, TV producer and women’s rights defender, was arrested after a raidon her home.

On June 27, 2018, Ms. Hatoonal-Fassi, a prominent scholar and associate professor of women’s history at KingSaud University, was arrested. She was advocating for the right of women toparticipate in municipal elections and to drive, and was one of the first womento drive the day the ban was lifted on June 24, 2018. She was set to beinterviewed by French media France 2 to talk about the lift of thedriving ban shortly after.

Ms. Amal Al-Harbi, a woman human rightsdefender and the wife of prominent activist Mr. Fowzan Al-Harbi,co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), wasarrested by State Security on July 30, 2018 while on the seaside with herchildren in Jeddah.

Ms. Shadan al-Onezi, Ms. Mayaaal-Zahrani, and Ms. AbeerNamankani were also detained following arrests that began in May 2018.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in SaudiArabia, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physicalintegrity and psychological well-being of the ten above-mentioned women human rightsdefenders, as well as of alldetained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia;

ii. Ensure that the tenabove-mentioned women human rights defenders haveunhindered access to their families and lawyers and respect in allcircumstances their right to a fair trial;

iii.Immediately and unconditionally release the ten above-mentionedwomen human rights defenders, and end all forms ofharassment, including at the judicial level, against them and all detainedhuman rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, as their detention is arbitrary sinceit only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iv.Comply in all circumstances with all the provisions ofthe United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular itsArticles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;

v.More generally, ensure in all circumstances therespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance withinternational human rights standards and instruments ratified by Saudi Arabia.


HisMajesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodianof the two Holy Mosques, Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125;Email:; Twitter: @KingSalman

HisExcellency, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Fax:(via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125; Email:

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

HisRoyal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, Minister ofInterior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fax: + 966 11 401 1111 / + 966 11 401 1944 /+ 966 11 403 1125; Email:

H.E.Adel bin Ahmed El Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: + 966 11 403 0645 ;Email:
• H.E. Abdulaziz Alwasil, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of SaudiArabia to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 0000. Email:
• H.E. Abdulrahman bin Soliman Al-Ahmed, Ambassador, Embassy of Saudi Arabia inBrussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 6468538. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Saudi Arabia in yourrespective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies inSaudi Arabia.


Paris-Geneva, March 15, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertakenquoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is tointervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights DefendersMechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] The tenth women rightsdefender does not want her name to be disclosed.

[2] The SCC was originallyset up in 2009 to prosecute those with direct links to terrorist acts. It ispart of the Ministry of the Interior rather than the Ministry of Justice,placing it firmly within the national security sphere. This jurisdiction hasbeen dealing with cases affecting “national security”. It is used by the Saudigovernment to crush peaceful dissent from human rights defenders andpro-democracy activists.

[3] See Observatory UrgentAppeals SAU 003 / 0518 / OBS 073 and SAU 004 / 0718 / OBS 093,published on May 24, 2018 and on July 6, 2018.

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