UN Committee urges Saudi authorities to release Loujain Al-Hathloul and other detainees
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Committee for Justice,
Geneva, November 5, 2020
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has expressed its grave concern about the deteriorating health condition of the Saudi women’s rights activist, Loujain Al-Hathloul, who has been on hunger strike since 26 October to protest against her prolonged detention, and her ban from communicating with her family.
UN concern about the conditions of Al-Hathloul’s detention:
In a statement published by the media center of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Committee called for the immediate release of Al-Hathloul, and all of the detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.
The Committee said: “We are seriously concerned by recent information concerning the conditions of Ms. Al-Hathloul’s prolonged detention, including reports that she is not allowed regular contact with her family.”
The statement indicated that Al-Hathloul sought with all her strength to promote women’s rights in the Kingdom, including through campaigns to allow women to drive and to end male guardianship laws.
The reason behind the arrest and trial of Al-Hathloul:
The statement indicated that Al-Hathloul met with the Committee in February 2018 and shared her observations with its members on the state of women’s rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and that three months after the meeting, she was arrested and has been detained since then on national security grounds, partly because of her engagement with the Committee, according to the charges against her.
The Saudi authorities had assured the Committee in February this year that the trial of Al-Hathloul would take place in March. However, the hearing session has been postponed several times since then.
In its statement, the Committee urged the Saudi authorities to protect Al-Hathloul’s rights to life, health, liberty and personal security at all times, adding: “Human rights defenders have the right to communication with the UN, and they should do so free from fear or retribution of any sort.”
The Committee considered Al-Hathloul and other human rights defenders to be its key partners, and stressed that “Women human rights defenders bring voices from the ground and invaluable insights.”
UN calls for the release of Al-Hathloul
Prior to the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November, the Committee appealed to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to use his royal prerogative powers to ensure the release of Loujain Al-Hathloul.
The Committee also paid tribute to all other women human rights defenders around the world who face reprisals for their work, their defense of women’s rights, and their advocacy for gender equality and non-discrimination.