‘Alarming’: UN specialists frightened by well being of jailed Saudi activist | Saudi Arabia

Al-Hathloul, who was arrested in 2018, has been on hunger strike for a week because she was detained for a longer period.

The state of health of the imprisoned Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been on hunger strike since last week, is deteriorating rapidly, UN experts said, calling for her “immediate” release.

Al-Hathloul, 31, was arrested along with a dozen other activists in May 2018, just weeks before Saudi Arabia lifted a decade-long ban on women drivers.

On October 26th, she started refusing to eat. Al-Hathloul went on a week-long hunger strike in August because of the conditions of her extended detention.

Her deteriorating health is “deeply alarming,” the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) said in a statement on Thursday.

The committee, composed of 23 independent experts, also expressed serious concern “about the latest information on the conditions of Ms. al-Hathloul’s prolonged detention, including reports that she is not allowed regular contact with her family”.

Some of the activists arrested with her have been provisionally released while others remain in custody, what activists refer to as opaque trials on charges of exposure to foreign media, diplomats and human rights groups.

The pro-government media branded al-Hathloul and other detained activists as “traitors,” and her family alleged she was subjected to sexual harassment and torture, including electric shocks and waterboarding, while in detention.

The Saudi authorities vigorously deny the charges.

Three months before her arrest, al-Hathloul met with CEDAW to share her observations on the state of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

Legal experts expressed indignation that the national security charges against them were partly justified by their involvement in the committee.

“Human rights defenders have the right to communicate with the United Nations and they should do so free from fear or retaliation of any kind,” they said.

Saudi Arabia had assured the committee in February this year that the trial of al-Hathloul would take place a month later, but the hearing has been postponed several times, the statement added.

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