Saudi Arabia: the EU Parliament shows concern over women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia in a resolution

On the 14th of February, the EU Parliament in Strasbourg has adopted a resolution on women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia (2019/2564(RSP), proposed by Fabio Massimo Castaldo, Ignazio Corrao, Rosa D’Amato on behalf of the EFDD Group.

This resolution has drawn the attention to the main human rights and social issues which occur in Saudi Arabia. The EU Parliament has addressed the greatest emergencies and most deplorable injustices and violations of human rights that have happened within the Kingdom after mentioning the most important previous resolutions on Saudi Arabia adopted by the very same organisation; the multiple reports and UN conventions on human rights and the recent social reforms and laws approved in Saudi Arabia. The first issue highlighted in the resolution is the arrest of  women “known for their campaign against the ban on women driving and support of abolishing the male guardianship system”, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Nouf Abdulaziz, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Shadan al-Anezi, Abir Namankani, Amal al-Harbi and Hatoon al- Fassi, and the arbitrary detention of human rights defender Israa al-Ghomgham.

The text underlines the fact that a range of discriminatory laws imposes the tightest restrictions and injustices on women. Indeed, “under the male guardianship system, Saudi women are deprived of even the most basic control over their lives; […] discriminatory laws relating to marriage and divorce remain in place, and women are required by law to obtain the permission of a male guardian to enroll in higher education, seek employment, travel or marry.”

In light of these observations, the EU Parliament “condemns the detention of the women human rights defenders who campaigned for the lifting of the driving ban, as well as of all peaceful human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and activists, and expresses its shock at the credible reports of systematic torture against several of them, including Loujain al-Hathloul” and insists that “the Saudi Authorities put an end to all forms of harassment, including at judicial level, against Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Nouf Abdulaziz, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Shadan al-Anezi, Abir Namankani, Amal al-Harbi, Hatoon al-Fassi, Israa Al-Ghomgham, Mohammed al- Rabea and all other human rights defenders in the country.” Moreover, it condemns “the ongoing repression and torture of human rights defenders, including women’s rights defenders, in Saudi Arabia” and is “deeply concerned about the prevalence of gender-based violence in Saudi Arabia, which remains largely underreported and undocumented, and which has been justified citing retrograde reasons such as the need to discipline women under men’s guardianship.”

In the final recommendations, the EU Parliament calls for the abolition of death penalty in Saudi Arabia and invites the EU Parliament to continue conducting a cooperative dialogue with Saudi Arabia and monitoring the ongoing violations of human rights within the country.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) gladly welcomes this resolution from the EU Parliament. ECDHR shares concern over the situation of all detained women in the Kingdom and calls upon the European Union to continue pressing on Saudi Arabia for more inclusive reforms in order to achieve gender equality.

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