On 04 June 2017 at about 3pm local time, Saudi security forces at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam arrested and detained women’s driving activist Loujain Al-Hathloul upon her arrival from the United States to start a family visit with her husband.
Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirm that on 05 June 2017 she was transferred to the capital Riyadh on a 5:30 pm flight accompanied by some police officers to an unknown detention centre, pending investigation.
It is feared that her arrest and detention are related to her peaceful activities in defending women’s rights, and in particular her involvement in the Women’s Driving Campaign in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Hathloul is a well-known woman human rights defender who was arrested on 01 December 2014 for defying a ban on women driving and was released only on 12 February 2015 after 73 days of detention at the Al-Ahsa Rehabilitation Facility for women under 30 years old.
GCHR condemns the arrest and detention of Al-Hathloul. It believes that she is targeted solely due to her peaceful activities to promote women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, including the right to drive a car.
GCHR urges the Saudi government to:
- Release Lujain Al-Hathloul immediately and unconditionally;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Lujain Al-Hathloul as long as she remains in detention;
- Stop targeting campaigners for women’s right to drive, among other women’s rights;
- Allow women to drive freely without any judicial harassment or other reprisals; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders including women’s activists in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“, and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration.”
Gulf Center for human rights