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Saudi Arabia: European countries must step up defence of women's rights activists

© Six of those being held (l-r top row, then l-r bottom row): Samar Badawi, Aziza al-Yousef, Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Nassima al-Sada, Mohammad al-Bajadi © Private

Responding to the European Parliament’s condemnation of the ongoing repression and torture of a group of women’s rights defenders detained in Saudi Arabia since May last year, Covadonga de la Campa, Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office Director, said:

“The European Parliament’s resolution on Saudi Arabia is an important step which acknowledges the incredible courage of these imprisoned men and women, several of whom have been tortured for demanding the end of the male guardianship system, campaigning for women’s right to drive and tirelessly defending human rights.

“After the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini assured the European Parliament that the EU would support human rights activists ‘regardless of geopolitics’. It is time for them to come good on this promise and speak out for Saudi detainees, as silent diplomacy has thus far failed to protect them.

“These brave women and men must be immediately and unconditionally released, together with all human rights defenders imprisoned for their peaceful activism in Saudi Arabia.

“Until that happens, the Saudi authorities must accept the European Parliament’s demand to give international monitors unrestricted access to them.”

Tortured and sexually harassed

Amnesty International has collected credible information that several of the activists arbitrarily detained in the May 2018 crackdown were tortured, sexually harassed and otherwise ill-treated during the first three months of their detention.

Women human rights defenders Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Shadan al-Anezi, Nouf Abdulaziz and others remain in detention without charge and with no legal representation.

Activists have also reported the detention of other women’s rights activists and academics, including Mayaa al-Zahrani, Dr. Abir Namankani, Dr Ruqayyah al-Mharib and Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi.

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