Saudi Arabia women's rights defender at risk

Who we wrote to

The authorities in Saudi Arabia

What’s the issue

We’re concerned about serious harassment suffered by Samar Badawi, an award-winning human rights defender and women's rights activist, in Saudi Arabia.

On 16 September 2014, Ms Badawi delivered a statement at the UN Human Rights Council in which she advocated for the release of her former husband, Mr Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights defenders. She also addressed the policies that restrict women's rights and agency, including the right to vote and to drive.

Because of this appearance, she was banned from travelling and prevented from attending an non-governmental organisation forum in Brussels in December 2014.

On 6 January 2016, she was summoned by the Criminal Investigation Authority in Jeddah for interrogation concerning activity on the Twitter account of her former husband. We wrote to you about his situation on 3 February and 8 May 2015 .

Ms Badawi was interrogated a few days later for around four hours, put in a police car and transferred with her two-year old daughter to Hayy al-Salam police station. On arrival she was placed under arrest and transferred to Dhahban Central Prison where both her former husband and her brother, Raif Badawi, are detained.

Ms Badawi was released the next day without charges. We previously wrote about Mr Badawi's situation on 30 June 2015.

On 13 February 2017, Ms Badawi was summoned, without a reason, by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution in Jeddah to appear for questioning. Two days later she was interrogated for several hours, allegedly on her work for a women's rights campaign against male guardians.

On 30 July 2018, Ms Badawi was detained and arrested in Jeddah and transported to an unknown location. We understand that she is being held in isolation in pre-trial detention.

On 12 October 2018, UN human rights experts urged Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release all women human rights defenders, including six defenders who remain in prison on charges relating to their peaceful defence of human rights.

The human rights experts included:

  • Michel Forst, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Diego Garcia-Sayan, UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
  • David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights of opinion and expression
  • Dubravka Simonovic, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
  • Fionnuala NI Aolain, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

What we asked for

We urged the relevant authorities to:

  • immediately and unconditionally release Ms Badawi and, if she’s been charged with any criminal offences, the evidence which the charges are based on should be served upon her and she should be released pending the outcome of proceedings which should be carried out in accordance with international fair trial guarantees
  • ensure that, while in prison, the conditions of detention comply with applicable international standards, which means releasing Ms Badawi from detention in isolationand ensuring her physical and psychological wellbeing, including allowing visits with her family and legal representatives
  • comply with Saudi Arabia's international obligations to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their functions without harassment and improper interference

We’ll continue to monitor the situation of lawyers and human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, particularly the situation of Ms Badawi and other women's rights activists.

Timeline

16 September 2014 – Samar Badawi delivered a statement at the UN Human Rights Council

December 2014 – Ms Badawi was banned from travelling and prevented from attending an NGO forum in Brussels

6 January 2016 – summoned by Criminal Investigations Authority in Jeddah about Twitter account activity of her former husband (see letters of 3 February and 8 May 2015)

January 2016 – Ms Badawi interrogated, transferred to Hayy al-Salam police station and placed under arrest

13 February 2017 – Ms Badawi summoned and interrogated by Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution in Jeddah

30 July 2018 – Ms Badawi detained and arrested in Jeddah, and transported to unknown location

12 October 2018 – UN human rights experts urged Saudi Arabia to release all women human rights defenders

5 December 2018 – we wrote to Saudi Arabian authorities