UN women’s rights committee calls for release of Saudi activist from detention


On February 27, 2018, Loujain Al-Hathloul attended a public meeting in Geneva to brief members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on the human rights situation of women in Saudi Arabia. A few weeks later, she was arrested in Saudi Arabia on national security grounds and has been in detention ever since.

According to the charges, her arrest was partly based on her engagement with CEDAW.

Now, the UN women’s rights committee has urged Saudi Arabia to release the human rights defender from prolonged pre-trial detention and ensure without further delay her right to a fair trial.

“Two years on from briefing and engaging with us, Loujain Al-Hathloul remains in detention. We are calling on Saudi Arabia to release her from detention and protect her right to liberty and security of person at all times,” said Nahla Haidar, CEDAW member and the Committee’s rapporteur on reprisals.

“CEDAW, together with the other UN Treaty Bodies, is clear that no one should face reprisals or intimidation for cooperating or having cooperated with us. Al-Hathloul should be released immediately and Saudi Arabia should ensure her right to a fair trial with full respect for procedural guarantees established by international human rights law, and free from gender bias,” she added.

Al Hathloul had been instrumental in the movement in Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive and the push to end male guardianship laws.

The next hearing of her trial is reported to be scheduled for March 11.

The Committee, which has intervened repeatedly on behalf of Al-Hathloul under its reprisals mandate, has made its latest call in a statement issued to mark the second anniversary of her participation in the review of Saudi Arabia.

In it, members voice their appreciation of the engagement with the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations on her case. They also note the efforts that the Government of Saudi Arabia has made to reform discriminatory legislation.

However, the Committee remains concerned by the situation of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2000. (Source: OHCHR)