Free Saudi women who fought for the right to drive

I am writing to raise my serious concerns about the ongoing detention of 4 women’s rights activists - Maya’a al-Zahrani, Nouf Abdulaziz, Shadan al-Anezi and Loujain al-Hathloul.  They appear to be held solely for their campaign against the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, and for the end of the male guardianship system.

While welcoming the temporary and conditional release of sister human rights activists Aziza al-Yousef, Iman al-Nafjan and Dr Ruqayyah al-Muharib, in March and Amal al-Harbi, Dr Hatoon al-Fassi, Dr Abir al-Namankani and Maysaa al-Mane’a in May, all the women were held without charge for 10 months.  During this time they had no access to their lawyers or family members.  Some of these women also advised they were tortured, ill-treated and sexually abused during their first three-months in detention. The Public Prosecution denied these allegations, without any investigation into them.

Despite this case attracting global interest, I am also concerned to hear that diplomats and journalists were consistently banned from attending the court sessions.

It’s why I urge you to:

  • drop all charges against the 11 women activists;
  • release immediately and unconditionally those still detained, as they are prisoners of conscience, solely detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association;
  •  allow independent monitors into the prisons to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual abuse; 
  •  allow foreign diplomats and journalists access to upcoming trial sessions.