Saudi Arabia: Verdict Upheld Against Loujain Al-Hathloul
On 10 March, the Specialized Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia upheld the conviction of Saudi woman human rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul, confirming a sentence of five years and eight months with conditional release. Loujain al-Hathloul had appealed the sentence handed down to her on 28 December 2020, which was based on charges including “spying with foreign parties” and “conspiring against the Kingdom”, effectively criminalizing her work promoting women’s rights and advocating for the end of the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia.
Please write to the King, asking him to:
- Ensure that Loujain al-Hathloul’s conviction and sentence are quashed, as she was detained and tried solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.
- Respect Loujain al-Hathloul’s right to movement and travel by lifting the ban imposed on her for the coming five years, as well as removing the travel ban on her parents.
- Ensure an effective investigation into the allegations that Loujain al-Hathloul was tortured, prosecuting those suspected of responsibility in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty and providing her with a remedy.
- Ensure Loujain al-Hathloul’s safety and protection from threats, harassment and any kind of punitive measures.
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 011 966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)
Mr. Sulaiman Abdulkareem M. Al Aqueel
Chargé d'Affaires, Embassy for Saudi Arabia
201 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1K6
Fax: 613 237 0567
Phone: 613 237 4100
On 13 March 2019, Loujain al-Hathloul was among 11 women human rights defenders (WHRDs) brought to trial before the Criminal Court in Riyadh. The court session was closed, and diplomats and journalists were banned from attending. Several women activists faced charges of contacting foreign media, other activists and international organizations including Amnesty International. Some of them were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for the end of the male guardianship system.”
The trial of several WHRDs arrested between May and July 2018 resumed in 2020 and resulted in a number of prison sentences being handed down following unfair trials. After months of delays and prolonged detention without their trials proceeding, in November 2020 Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdelaziz and Mayaa al-Zahrani, were brought before the Criminal Court in Riyadh in separate trial sessions. Loujain al-Hathloul’s case was transferred to the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in December 2020 after the Criminal Court concluded that it was “outside its jurisdiction”. The SCC specializes in trying terrorism-related cases and should not be trying and sentencing peaceful activists.
On 28 December 2020, Loujain al-Hathloul was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison - partially suspended by two years and ten months - by the Specialized Criminal Court.
On 10 February 2021, Loujain al-Hathloul was conditionally released from prison and continues to face probation and a travel ban of five years. In addition, she continues to be denied access to justice and accountability for her allegations of being tortured and harassed in prison during the first three months of her detention.
The Saudi Arabian authorities continue to arbitrarily detain without charges and try individuals for their peaceful expression and human rights work. Amongst those are: Mohammed al-Bajadi, founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and prominent human rights defender who has been detained without charges or trial since May 2018; and Salman al-Awda, a reformist cleric who faces a death sentence for his peaceful expression.