Saudi Arabia: Loujain al-Hathloul's sentencing, partially suspended, is still cruel

Responding to the sentencing of women human rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months imprisonment following an unfair trial before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Heba Morayef, said:

“Loujain al-Hathloul is a brave human rights defender whose peaceful activism together with other brave Saudi activists has driven momentous social change in Saudi Arabia. This sentencing, while partially suspended, still shows the cruelty of the Saudi authorities towards one of the bravest women who dared to be vocal about her dreams of a better Saudi Arabia.

“With this deeply flawed trial and the continued relentless crackdown on activists and human rights defenders, Saudi Arabia has proven that its rhetoric on human rights reform is utterly hollow.

With this deeply flawed trial and the continued relentless crackdown on activists and human rights defenders, Saudi Arabia has proven that its rhetoric on human rights reform is utterly hollow
Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

“Loujain al-Hathloul has already spent more than 900 days in detention, during which she endured torture, sexual harassment and other forms of ill-treatment, was held in solitary confinement and denied access to her family. We are extremely concerned for her wellbeing and safety, and reiterate our calls for her immediate and unconditional release. In the meantime, Loujain must be allowed access to her family and a doctor of her choosing.”

“We reiterate our calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all Saudi human rights defenders and women activists who are still in detention, including Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani, and ensure that charges are dropped against all 13 activists on trial for promoting women’s rights. 

Background

In 2018, Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested 13 women’s rights activists for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani.

On 28 December, Loujain al-Hathloul was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison, after her case was transferred to Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in November. She was charged with “spying with foreign parties” and “conspiring against the kingdom” for promoting women’s rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International has documented how trials conducted before the SCC are intrinsically unfair, in gross violation of the international right to fair trial.

The Court has suspended 2 years and 10 months of Loujain al-Hathloul’s term and backdated its start to May 2018, meaning she only has three months left to serve.