Fears mount that Saudi women human rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul could face lengthy prison sentence
BREAKING NEWS - Loujain was convicted on December 28. Read here for further details.
Thirty-one year old Loujain al-Hathloul is one of the most celebrated women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia for good reason. She was one of the leaders of the campaign for Saudi women to have the right to drive vehicles. She advocated against the male guardianship system. She wanted to set up frontline services to support survivors of gender-based violence. She networked with other activists and organizations, attended international conferences, and testified on Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights record at the United Nations.
Instead of being celebrated for her tireless and impactful activism, Loujain has been jailed since 2018, subjected to torture and other forms of ill treatment, held incommunicado for long periods of time without access to independent legal counsel and family visits, charged with terrorism-related offenses, and she could face up to twenty years in prison.
Loujain is not a criminal. She is not a terrorist. Her “crimes” are doing things that Amnesty supporters do every day, like sharing information and strategizing with fellow activists.
Amnesty International calls for Loujain and other Saudi women human rights defenders to be immediately and unconditionally released and for all charges against them to be dropped. Advocating for women’s rights is not a crime!
What’s the latest on Loujain’s case?
Loujain has been in jail since May 2018. She has not been convicted of any crime.
Her case was brought before the Specialized Criminal Court (anti-terrorism court) in March 2019, where it was then moved to the Criminal Court, which held a hearing on her case, also in March 2019. After that, everything stopped. Her next trial hearing was in February 2020. Her family visited her in March 2020. After a phone call with her family in April 2020, Loujain was held incommunicado until the end of August 2020. After one visit with her family she was again held incommunicado until the end of October 2020.
In November 2020, Saudi Arabia hosted the G20 Leaders’ Summit. In the lead-up to the Summit, activists around the world advocated for Loujain’s release. Right after the Summit ended, and with less than 24 hours notice, Loujain’s trial resumed on November 25. During the hearing, her case was moved back to the Specialized Criminal Court. Trial hearings in the Specialized Criminal Court were held throughout December.
At a hearing in the Specialized Criminal Court on Monday, December 28, Loujain was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison, including a suspended sentence of two years and 10 months, plus time served. This means that Loujain could be released in approximately three months. However, she will have to serve three years of probation and could be re-arrested during that time if she engages in illegal activities (i.e. activism), and she will be banned from travel for five years. Read Amnesty International's statement on Loujain's conviction.
How can I stay updated?
Loujain’s case is evolving rapidly. Check out these resources maintained by her family (who are incredible human rights defenders too!).
- The Loujain al-Hathloul website operated by her family
- The Twitter feed of Lina al-Hathloul, Loujain’s sister and the family spokesperson
- The AmnestyGulf and Amnesty International Canada women’s rights Twitter feeds
What can I do?
- Sign our e-action calling for Loujain and the other women human rights defenders to be released - this action is more important than ever because we want Loujain's conviction to be overturned and we want her to be immediately and unconditionally released.
- Tweet directly at Saudi authorities. Saudi authorities pay attention to social media. It’s critical to send them a strong message that even though it’s winter break in the northern hemisphere activists are still closely monitoring Loujain’s case and advocating for her release. Here is a sample Tweet!