A cross-regional group of 36 states* have called for the release of imprisoned Women Human Rights Defenders in Saudi Arabia, at the interactive dialogue held with the UN High Commissioner at the Human Rights Council. This is the first time ever that States at the Council collectively condemned human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia. Led by Iceland and signed by all EU Member states, the joint statement calls for the release of Saudi Women Human Rights Defenders and condemns the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Since mid-2018, a group of peaceful activists have been detained in Saudi Arabia. Several were denied access to their families, while all remain without access to legal representation. In addition to being imprisoned, reports have emerged revealing that many of the detained women were subjected to torture, including flogging, sexual assault, and electric shocks. According to testimonies some of the women have been left unable to walk or stand properly, with uncontrollable shaking. The joint statement at the Council comes at a critical time as the Saudi Public Prosecution announced last week that some of the defenders will be referred to trial.
The statement builds on the EU Resolution released last month which highlighted Saudi Arabia’s place on the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Commission on the Status of Women despite the nation’s numerous human rights violations. Prior to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, Women’s March Global, together with more than 50 human rights organisations, composed a letter to over 30 Ministers of Foreign Affairs calling on UN Member States to adopt a resolution at the 40th session of the UN HRC calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders and to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country.
The joint statement from 36 states sends a strong message to the Saudi authorities that the Council will hold its members accountable, however, more work needs to be done and more States must take the necessary steps to keep the pressure on Saudi Arabia.
Read the joint statement on Saudi Arabia here.
*The States who signed the joint statement are: Iceland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Montenegro, Malta, Slovakia, Liechtenstein, Italy, Bulgaria, France, Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, and Monaco.
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Maya Hendler is an Intern at Women’s March Global.