Saudi Arabia


  • Khashoggi paid the price for being a 'different Saudi'

    By Masana Ndinga-Kanga, Crisis Response Fund Lead at CIVICUS

    Since Jamal Khashoggi disappeared on October 2, 2018, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Saudi authorities have continuously changed their narrative of what happened. From claiming that he left alive and well, through asserting he got into a "fistfight", to insisting he was the victim of a "rogue operation", Riyadh has been unable to present a convincing, coherent explanation of what exactly happened that day in the consulate.

    Read on: Al Jazeera


  • Ladies European Tour community should #StandWithSaudiHeroes

    In December 2019, the Ladies European Tour announced that it would hold a tournament in Saudi Arabia from the 19th to the 22nd March 2020 in collaboration with Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation.

    While this announcement can be seen as an embedment of Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” economic reform plan, it also contributes to “sports-washing”—hosting major events that seek to gloss over serious human rights violations committed by the Saudi authorities in recent years.

    Since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Saudi Arabia has faced increased international criticism over its human rights record; particularly its lack of a transparent investigation into the prominent journalist’s murder, the torture and detention of women’s rights activists and its role in war crimes committed during its military operations in Yemen.

    In June 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions presented to the Council her investigation into Khashoggi’s murder, which found the State of Saudi Arabia responsible and highlighted that the killing reflected a broader crackdown against activists, journalists and dissenters, as well as a culture of impunity at the highest levels. The Special Rapporteur called on corporations to “establish explicit policies to avoid entering into business deals with business, businesspeople, and organs of the State that have had a direct or indirect role with Khashoggi’s execution or other grave human rights violations”.[1]

    The Saudi government has created a hostile environment for human rights defenders— applying a counter-terrorism framework to arbitrarily detain, torture and put on trial dozens of them for their peaceful advocacy. Among those who remain detained are notable Saudi women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul,Nouf Abdulaziz, Maya al-Zahrani, Nassima Al Saddah and Samar Badawi, who advocated for women’s right to drive and an end to the country’s discriminatory male guardianship system.

    These women were among a dozen women’s rights defenders arrested in 2018 in retaliation for peacefully campaigning for the protection and promotion of women’s rights throughout the kingdom. It was reported that they were subjected to electric shocks, flogging, sexual threats and other forms of torture during interrogation. These women, who remain detained, along with other women’s rights activists temporarily released, are on trial on charges solely related to their activism. We remain concerned that they will not be able to exercise their right to a fair trial in accordance with the international human rights standards, which Saudi Arabia is obliged to adhere to.

    While Saudi Arabia adopted some positive measures, including permitting women to drive andremoving travel restrictions for women over 21,the authorities have yet to fully dismantle the male guardianship system, tackle severe lack of gender inequality, and end the arbitrary detention and prosecution of women’s rights activists and human rights defenders.

    The world’s top human rights body, the United Nations Human Rights Council (the Council) has unprecedentedly scrutinized the human rights record of Saudi Arabia in 2019. In March 2019, Iceland on behalf of 36 States delivered the first-ever joint statement on Saudi Arabia which, expressed serious concern over the continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders and called for the release of ten named women’s rights activists from detention as well as accountability for the extrajudicial killing of Khashoggi. In September 2019, Australia delivered another joint statement that set out a list of measures that the Saudi government should take to improve its human rights record, which to this date the Saudi government failed to comply with.

    Lastly, we also draw your attention to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which provide that businesses should seek to prevent (...) adverse human rights impact that they are directly linked to through their business relationships, even where they do not contribute to those impacts. The ability of civil society to operate where you hold or participate in events is essential to upholding your credibility.

    Take Action:

    In light of Saudi Arabia’s numerous and ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, the undersigned NGOs have called on Ladies European Tour organizers, players, and official broadcasters to urge the Saudi authorities to drop all charges against Saudi women’s rights activists and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained for their peaceful and legitimate human rights activism.

    Because you can genuinely make a difference in these activists’ lives and their struggle for freedom and gender equality, we are asking Ladies European Tour fans to help increase awareness and show solidarity by sharing on social media messages of support and solidarity with #StandWithSaudiHeroes.

    While official Ladies European Tour voices and players are important in pressuring Saudi authorities to act, it is important that fans of the sport around the world speak up, too. You too can help the activists get their freedom and continue their human rights struggle. In the lead up to the tournament, please add your voice to the campaign by sharing support on social media channels using the hashtag #StandWithSaudiHeroes, follow campaign developments online, and reach out to competitors representing your home country to participate.


    1. ALQST
    2. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    3. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    4. Equality Now!
    5. Gulf Center for Human Rights
    6. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    7. MENA Rights Group
    8. Women’s March Global

    [1] See full recommendations to corporations on page 98- Section K:


  • Ladies European Tour community should #StandWithSaudiHeroes


    Dear Organisers, Participants and Sponsors,

    We, the undersigned organisations, are writing to ask you to reconsider your participation in the Ladies European Tour golf week taking place in Saudi Arabia and denounce human rights violations against women in the Kingdom. 

    With the competition taking place from 12 to 19 November, domestic and international viewers from 55 countries worldwide will watch female players compete for a hefty cash prize, while women’s rights defenders in the Kingdom languish in prison, without access to legitimate legal redress. The 1.5 million dollar cash prize being offered to the winner comes directly from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. Saudi PIF has invested billions into campaigns to whitewash their human rights abuses, including downplaying the abhorrent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.    

    While we acknowledge that such tournaments represent an important milestone in women’s golf, we are deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia is using this sports event as a public relations tool to sports-wash its appalling human rights record, including the discrimination against women and the crackdown on women’s rights defenders. 

    In 2018, Saudi Arabia carried out a wave of arrests of Saudi women activists who were challenging the country’s discriminatory male guardianship system by peacefully campaigning for their right to drive. Among those who remain detained are Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, Nouf Abdulaziz, and Maya al-Zahrani; many reported they were subjected to torture in detention, including flogging, electric shocks, sexual harassment, and being held in solitary confinement. Several other women’s rights defenders have been temporarily released; however, many are still awaiting trial and could face lengthy prison sentences. We remain concerned that they will not be able to exercise their right to fair proceedings in accordance with the international human rights standards, which Saudi Arabia is obliged to adhere to.

    Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina, recently expressed her outrage over the illegitimacy of the Saudi regime, and the wall between the government and the people. “Loujain has been in prison for two and a half years. We haven’t managed to have any contact with high-ranking Saudi officials. They don’t want to answer our questions… Loujain and the other activists have not yet had a trial, or been condemned. They have been tortured. Their only charge is that they were human rights activists,” she said. 

    Women in Saudi Arabia, including foreign women residing in the country, are denied agency over their own lives, nor are they legally recognized as full human beings. Saudi law prohibits disobedience to husbands or male guardians, and women still do not have the right to choose who they want to marry, or how they want to give birth, without the approval of a male guardian.  In addition, Saudi women cannot pass their nationality on to their children and foreign wives of Saudi citizens are not permitted to return to their home countries without their husband’s permission. Despite the country’s domestic violence law endorsed under Royal Decree in 2013, men continue to exercise extreme power over women and children, leaving many of them trapped in abusive relationships. Furthermore, those who speak out on the reality of the status of women’s rights and other human rights issues are often arrested on trumped-up charges, or even forcibly disappeared. 

    The only way to achieve true progress, in the eyes of the world, is to implement real reforms on women’s rights, and immediately release the activists who have been arrested for defending these rights. 

    While we hope that Saudi Arabia can indeed develop its interaction with other countries around the world through hosting sports and other events in the Kingdom, we cannot ignore the country’s attempt to conceal its continued detention of women’s rights activists and discrimination against women by hosting a women’s sports tournament. 

    Take Action!

    In light of the above, the signatories call on Ladies European Tour organisers and players, to urge the Saudi authorities to drop all charges against Saudi women’s rights activists and immediately and unconditionally release them. Because you can genuinely make a difference in these activists’ lives and their struggle for freedom and gender equality, we are asking you to help increase awareness and show solidarity by sharing on social media messages of support and solidarity with #StandWithSaudiHeroes.

    Yours Sincerely,

    1. ALQST for Human Rights
    2. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
    3. CIVICUS Alliance
    5. Equality Now
    6. European Center for Democracy and Human Rights 
    7. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor 
    8. Freedom Forward 
    9. Freedom Now
    10. Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties
    11. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    12. HUMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement 
    13. International Service for Human Rights 
    14. Kurdistan Without Genocide Association (KWG)
    15. Le Collectif de Femmes pour les Droits de l'Homme – Paris 
    16. L’Association Francophone pour les Droits de l’Homme 
    17. MENA Rights Group 
    18. The Freedom Initiative
    19. Women’s March Global  


  • Les défenseures des droits des femmes doivent être libérées immédiatement et sans condition !


    Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al Awwad

    President of the Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia


    Nos organisations restent très préoccupées par le maintien en détention arbitraire depuis 2018 de défenseures des droits des femmes, notamment Loujain Al Hathloul, Nassima al Saddah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz et Miyaa al Zahrani. Plusieurs de ces femmes ont été victimes d’actes de torture, de violences sexuelles et d’autres mauvais traitements et n’ont bénéficié d’aucun recours effectif.

    Nos inquiétudes sont largement partagées par la communauté internationale. La haute-commissaire aux droits de l’homme des Nations unies a demandé à plusieurs reprises la libération des défenseures des droits des femmes depuis leur arrestation en 2018[1]. Au Conseil des droits de l’homme de l’ONU, plus de 40 États du monde entier ont demandé à maintes reprises à l’Arabie saoudite de libérer immédiatement toutes les personnes détenues pour avoir simplement exercé leurs droits humains, et en particulier les défenseures des droits des femmes[2].

    Le Comité pour l’élimination de la discrimination à l’égard des femmes a contacté à plusieurs reprises les autorités saoudiennes pour demander la libération de Loujain Al Hathloul et de toutes les défenseures des droits des femmes et faire part de ses vives préoccupations quant aux conditions de détention de Loujain Al Hathloul. Loujain Al Hathloul mène une grève de la faim pour protester contre le refus des autorités de la laisser communiquer régulièrement avec sa famille. Le secrétaire général des Nations unies a également évoqué la détention de Loujain Al Hathloul et de Samar Badawi dans ses rapports annuels sur la Coopération avec l’Organisation des Nations Unies, ses représentants et ses mécanismes dans le domaine des droits de l’homme[3].

    Des procédures spéciales des Nations unies ont appelé à plusieurs reprises l’Arabie saoudite à libérer les militantes, dans des communications et des communiqués de presse[4]. Tout en saluant certaines réformes du système de tutelle masculine, elles ont toutefois signalé que « ces avancées positives sont le résultat de plusieurs années de plaidoyer sans relâche et du travail de nombreux défenseur·e·s des droits humains et des droits des femmes en Arabie saoudite. Nombre de ces personnes sont toujours en détention et nous demandons leur libération immédiate. »

    Lors de l’Examen période universel (EPU) de l’Arabie saoudite en novembre 2018, le pays a reçu au moins 22 recommandations demandant la libération de défenseur·e·s des droits humains, notamment des défenseures des droits des femmes, et la garantie de l’instauration d’un environnement sûr et favorable leur permettant de mener leur travail.

    La Commission saoudienne des droits humains a déclaré dans son rapport de mars 2020 que « le Royaume d’Arabie saoudite a fait des progrès constants en termes de réformes et d’examens consécutifs des lois et réglementations en vue de l’autonomisation des femmes ». La libération immédiate et sans condition de toutes des défenseures des droits des femmes serait un gage de la volonté du gouvernement saoudien d’améliorer la situation en matière de droits humains.

    Des informations fournies aux médias par des représentants saoudiens évoquant la possibilité d’une « grâce » pour les défenseures des droits des femmes laissent entendre qu’elles ont commis une infraction, cependant nous rappelons qu’elles sont détenues arbitrairement en raison de leur militantisme pacifique. Les autorités saoudiennes doivent libérer immédiatement et sans condition les défenseures des droits des femmes, abandonner toutes les charges retenues contre elles et mettre un terme au harcèlement, à l’intimidation et aux interdictions de voyager dont font l’objet les membres de leur famille.

    Bien cordialement,

    1. ACAT-France
    2. ALQST for Human Rights
    3. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
    4. Amnesty International
    5. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    6. CIVICUS
    7. Coalition Tunisienne Contre la Peine de Mort
    9. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
    10. English PEN
    11. Equality Now
    12. European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights
    13. FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    14. Freedom Initiative
    15. Gulf Centre for Human Rights
    16. Human Rights Watch
    17. Humanists International
    18. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    19. MENA Rights Group
    20. Nachaz Dissonances
    21. No Peace Without Justice
    22. Organisation against Torture in Tunisia
    23. PEN International
    24. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
    25. Renewal Forum for Citizenship and Progressive Thought- Tunisia
    26. Saudi American Justice Project
    27. Scholars at Risk
    28. The B Team
    29. The Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Woman (LECORVAW)
    30. The Tunisian League for Human Rights Defence
    31. Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
    32. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
    33. Women's March Global
    34. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders


    [1] En mai 2018, juillet 2018, septembre 2018, mars 2019, février 2020, septembre 2020.

    [2] En mars 2019 à l’initiative de l’Islande, en septembre 2019 à l’initiative de l’Australie, en septembre 2020 à l’initiative du Danemark, et en juin 2020 à l’initiative des Pays-Bas au nom des pays du Benelux.

    [3] En septembre 2019 et septembre 2020.

    [4] Communiqué de presse et communication de juin 2018, communiqués de presse et communications d’octobre 2018, de février 2019, d’août 2019, de septembre 2019, et de juin 2020.


  • Open letter to the G20 Finance Ministers

    Dear G20 Finance Ministers,

    As you meet this week, we are writing to you to encourage you to take concrete actions in order to build a better future through a just recovery by investing in people and ensuring that funds being made available reach those that need them the most.


  • Progress and shortcomings from 44th Session of the Human Rights Council

    Joint Statement for the end of the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council began with China's imposition of legislation severely undermining rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Within days, there were reports of hundreds of arrests, some for crimes that didn’t even exist previously. We welcome efforts this session by a growing number of States to collectively address China’s sweeping rights abuses, but more is needed. An unprecedented 50 Special Procedures recently expressed concerns at China’s mass violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, suppression of information in the context of Covid-19, and targeting of human rights defenders across the country. The Council should heed the call of these UN experts to hold a Special Session and create a mechanism to monitor and document rights violations in the country. No state is beyond international scrutiny. China’s turn has come.

    The 44th session also marked an important opportunity to enable those affected directly by human rights violations to speak to the Council through NGO video statements.

    Amnesty's Laith Abu Zeyad addressed the Council remotely from the occupied West Bank where he has been trapped by a punitive travel ban imposed by Israel since October 2019. We call on the Israeli authorities to end all punitive or arbitrary travel bans.

    During the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, victims’ associations and families of victims highlighted the human rights violations occurring in detention centers in Syria. We welcome the efforts by some States to underline their demands and welcome the adoption of the Syria resolution on detainees and urge the Syrian government to take all feasible measures to release detainees and provide truth to the families, noting the important pressure needed by Member States to further call for accountability measures for crimes committed in Syria.

    Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers against Police Brutality, also delivered a powerful video statement at the Council explaining the reality of racist policing in the United States of America. We fully support victims’ families’ appeals to the Council for accountability.

    We hope that the High Commissioner's reporton systemic racism, police violence and government responses to antiracism peaceful protests will be the first step in a series of meaningful international accountability measures to fully and independently investigate police killings, to protect and facilitate Black Lives Matter and other protests, and to provide effective remedy and compensation to victims and their families in the United States of America and around the world.

    We appreciate the efforts made by the Council Presidency and OHCHR to overcome the challenges of resuming the Council’s work while taking seriously health risks associated with COVID-19, including by increasing remote and online participation. We recommend that remote civil society participation continue and be strengthened for all future sessions of the Council.

    Despite these efforts, delays in finalising the session dates and modalities, and subsequent changes in the programme of work, reduced the time CSOs had to prepare and engage meaningfully. This has a disproportionate impact on CSOs not based in Geneva, those based in different time zones and those with less capacity to monitor the live proceedings. Other barriers to civil society participation this session included difficulties to meet the strict technical requirements for uploading video statements, to access resolution drafts and follow informal negotiations remotely, especially from other time zones, as well as a decrease in the overall number of speaking slots available for NGO statements due to the cancellation of general debates this session as an ‘efficiency measure.’

    We welcome the joint statement led by the core group on civil society space and endorsed by cross regional States and civil society, which calls on the High Commissioner to ensure that the essential role of civil society, and States’ efforts to protect and promote civil society space, are reflected in the report on impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented to the 46th Session of the HRC. We urge all States at this Council to recognise and protect the key role that those who defend human rights play.

    These last two years have seen unlawful use of force perpetrated by law enforcement against peaceful protesters, protest monitors, journalists worldwide, from the United States of America to Hong Kong, to Chile to France, Kenya to Iraq to Algeria, to India to Lebanon with impunity.

    We therefore welcome that the resolution “the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests” was adopted by consensus, and that the Council stood strongly against some proposed amendments which would have weakened it. We also welcome the inclusion in the resolution of a panel during the 48th session to discuss such events and how States can strengthen protections. We urge States to ensure full accountability for such human rights violations as an essential element of the protection of human rights in the context of protests. The current context has accelerated the urgency of protecting online assembly, and we welcome that the resolution reaffirms that peaceful assembly rights guaranteed offline are also guaranteed online. In particular, we also commend the resolution for calling on States to refrain from internet shutdowns and website blocking during protests, while incorporating language on the effects of new and emerging technologies, particularly tools such as facial recognition, international mobile subscriber identity-catchers (“stingrays”) and closed-circuit television.

    We welcome that the resolution on “freedom of opinion and expression” contains positive language including on obligations surrounding the right to information, emphasising the importance of measures for encryption and anonymity, and strongly condemning the use of internet shutdowns. Following the High Commissioner’s statement raising alarm at the abuse of ‘false news’ laws to crackdown on free expression during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also welcome that the resolution stresses that responses to the spread of disinformation and misinformation must be grounded in international human rights law, including the principles of lawfulness, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality. At the same time, we are concerned by the last minute addition of language which focuses on restrictions to freedom of expression, detracting from the purpose of the resolution to promote and protect the right. As we look to the future, it is important that the core group builds on commitments contained in the resolution and elaborate on pressing freedom of expression concerns of the day, particularly for the digital age, such as the issue of surveillance or internet intermediary liability, while refocusing elements of the text.

    The current context has not only accelerated the urgency of protecting assembly and access to information, but also the global recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We welcome the timely discussions on ”realizing children’s right to a healthy environment” and the concrete suggestions for action from panelists, States, and civil society. The COVID-19 crisis, brought about by animal-to-human viral transmission, has clarified the interlinkages between the health of the planet and the health of all people. We therefore support the UN Secretary General’s call to action on human rights, as well as the High Commissioner’s statement advocating for the global recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – already widely reflected at national and regional levels - and ask that the Council adopts a resolution in that sense. We also support the calls made by the Marshall Islands, Climate Vulnerable Forum, and other States of the Pacific particularly affected and threatened by climate change. We now urge the Council to strengthen its role in tackling the climate crisis and its adverse impacts on the realization of human rights by establishing a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, which will help address the urgency of the situation and amplify the voices of affected communities.

    The COVID crisis has also exacerbated discrimination against women and girls. We welcome the adoption by the Council of a strong resolution on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls, which are exacerbated in times of a global pandemic. The text, inter alia, reaffirms the rights to sexual and reproductive health and to bodily autonomy, and emphasizes legal obligations of States to review their legislative frameworks through an intersectional approach. We regret that such a timely topic has been questioned by certain States and that several amendments were put forward on previously agreed language.

    The Council discussed several country-specific situations, and renewed the mandates in some situations.

    We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and ongoing scrutiny on Belarus. The unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and members of the political opposition in recent weeks ahead of the Presidential election in August provide a clear justification for the continued focus, and the need to ensure accountability for Belarus’ actions. With concerns that the violations may increase further over the next few weeks, it is essential that the Council members and observers maintain scrutiny and pressure even after the session has finished.

    We welcome the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. We urge the government to engage, in line with its Council membership obligations, as the Special Rapporteur’s ‘benchmarks for progress’ form a road map for human rights reform in the country. We welcome the High Commissioner report on the human rights situation in the Philippines which concluded, among other things, that the ongoing killings appear to be widespread and systematic and that “the practical obstacles to accessing justice in the country are almost insurmountable.” We regret that even during this Council session, President Duterte signed an Anti Terrorism Law with broad and vague definition of terrorism and terrorists and other problematic provisions for human rights and rule of law, which we fear will be used to stifle and curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Also during this session, in a further attack on press freedom, Philippine Congress rejected the franchise renewal of independent media network ABS-CBN, while prominent journalist Maria Ressa and her news website Rappler continue to face court proceedings and attacks from President Duterte after Ressa’s cyber libel conviction in mid-June. We support the call from a group of Special Procedures to the Council to establish an independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines and urge the Council to establish it at the next session.

    The two reports presented to the Council on Venezuela this session further document how lack of judicial independence and other factors perpetuate impunity and prevent access to justice for a wide range of violations of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights in the country. We also urge the Council to stand ready to extend, enhance and expand the mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission when it reports in September. We also welcome the report of the Special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 and reiterate his call for States to ensure Israel puts an end to all forms of collective punishment. We also reiterate his call to ensure that the UN database of businesses involved with Israeli settlements becomes a living tool, through sufficient resourcing and annual updating.

    We regret, however, that several States have escaped collective scrutiny this session.

    We reiterate the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s call to pressure Saudi Arabia to release prisoners of conscience and women human rights defenders and call on all States to sustain the Council’s scrutiny over the situation at the September session.

    Despite calls by the High Commissioner for prisoners’ release, Egypt has arrested defenders, journalists, doctors and medical workers for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response. We recall that all of the defenders that the Special Procedures and the High Commissioner called for their release since September 2019 are still in pre-trial detention. The Supreme State Security Prosecution and 'Terrorism Circuit courts' in Egypt, are enabling pre-trial detention as a form of punishment including against human rights defenders and journalists and political opponents, such as Ibrahim Metwally, Mohamed El-Baqer and Esraa Abdel Fattah, Ramy Kamel, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Patrick Zaky, Ramy Shaat, Eman Al-Helw, Solafa Magdy and Hossam El-Sayed. Once the terrorism circuit courts resumed after they were suspended due to COVID-19, they renewed their detention retroactively without their presence in court. It’s high time the Council holds Egypt accountable.

    As highlighted in a joint statement of Special Procedures, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately release HRDs, who include students, activists and protest leaders, arrested for protesting against changes to India’s citizenship laws. Also eleven prominent HRDs continue to be imprisoned under false charges in the Bhima Koregaon case. These activists face unfounded terror charges under draconian laws such as sedition and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. While we welcome that Safoora Zargar was granted bail on humanitarian grounds, the others remain at high risk during a COVID-19 pandemic in prisons with not only inadequate sanitary conditions but also limited to no access to legal counsel and family members. A number of activists have tested positive in prison, including Akhil Gogoi and 80-year-old activist Varavara Rao amid a larger wave of infections that have affected many more prisoners across the country. Such charges against protestors, who were exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly must be dropped. We call on this Council to strengthen their demands to the government of India for accountability over the excessive use of force by the police and other State authorities against the demonstrators.

    In Algeria, between 30 March and 16 April 2020, the Special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, human rights defenders, issued three urgent appeals in relation to cases involving arbitrary and violent arrests, unfair trials and reprisals against human rights defenders and peaceful activists Olaya Saadi, Karim Tabbou and Slimane Hamitouche. Yet, the Council has been silent with no mention of the crackdown on Algerian civil society, including journalists.

    To conclude on a positive note, we welcome the progress in the establishment of the OHCHR country office in Sudan, and call on the international community to continue to provide support where needed to the transitional authorities. While also welcoming their latest reform announcements, we urge the transitional authorities to speed up the transitional process, including reforms within the judiciary and security sectors, in order to answer the renewed calls from protesters for the enjoyment of "freedom, peace and justice" of all in Sudan. We call on the Council to ensure continued monitoring and reporting on Sudan.


    International Service for Human Rights
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    Franciscans International
    The Syrian Legal Development Programme
    Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA World)
    Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    ARTICLE 19
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Association for Progressive Communications
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    Amnesty International


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina FasoBrazil, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, ItalyJapan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor




  • Reprisals are calculated steps by states to prevent activists from exposing human rights violations

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Statement during interactive dialogue with the Assistant Secretary General on Reprisals

    We thank the Assistant Secretary General for presenting this essential report which shows that acts of reprisals are not aberrative, but rather are calculated steps taken to prevent human rights defenders from exposing human rights violations. The UN depends on information from the ground in order to fulfil its mandate of protecting human rights. Every act of reprisal, those detailed in this report and the countless others that go unreported, is a direct challenge to this.

    But reprisals continue unabated, without accountability, and with a direct impact on the efficacy of the UN as a whole. We are particularly concerned to see council members listed in this report.

    Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the Philippines, particularly, show patterns of reprisals. We remain deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention and treatment of Ms. Samar Badawi and Ms. Loujain Al-Hathloul following their engagement with CEDAW. In the Philippines, we are seriously concerned by the attacks and threats against CIVICUS member Karapatan. Last week, FIND, a Philippines group advocating for the right of families of disappeared, was smeared by a representative of the government online following a side event highlighting the situation – and this was by no means the first time that human rights defenders have been attacked within this building for engaging with the Council. We echo the report’s recommendation that states commit to addressing reprisals in practice through the universal periodic review mechanism. However, we note that a number of cases outlined in the report actually came as a direct result of engagement with the UPR process: the cases of Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh in Viet Nam; of staff members of the international non-governmental organization Chinese Human Rights Defenders; of the New Generation of Human Rights Defenders Coalition in Kazakhstan; and of Malaysian human rights defender Mr. Numan Afifi. 

    The report shows reprisals at every stage of engagement, including attempts by state representatives on the Economic and Social Council to block accreditation of NGOs working on human rights. This pre-emptive weakening of civil society engagement with the UN represents yet another deliberate curtailment of civic space. 

    We ask the Assistant Secretary General: what possibility does he foresee for real political costs and accountability for states that engage in reprisals, particularly those who are repeat perpetrators? 

    And how can the UN and its related bodies take action to protect human rights defenders on the ground?


  • Saudi activist, Loujain Al-Hathloul spends 1000+ days in prison: Masana Ndinga-Kanga

    Prominent Saudi female activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, who campaigned for women's right to drive, was sentenced to more than five years in prison in December 2020, after having already spent two years in detention. She is probably one of Saudi Arabia's most famous human rights defenders. She and other activists were detained in 2018 on charges including contacts with organisations hostile to Saudi Arabia. She was eventually convicted of various charges, including trying to harm national security and advance a foreign agenda. As she spends her 1000th day in prison activists from around the world are campaigning for her unconditional release. Masana Ndinga-Kanga the Middle East and North Africa Advocacy Lead at the global alliance of civil society organisations, CIVICUS, told SABC News that al-Hathloul's case is symbolic of the repression and silencing that women in Saudi Arabia face when they dare to speak out for their human rights.


  • Saudi Arabia: C20 attendees must call on government to free jailed activists

    In January 2020, over 220 Civil Society Organisations endorseda statement issued by Amnesty International, CIVICUS and Transparency International announcing that they will not be participating in the sham Civil20 process hosted by Saudi Arabia, due to the Kingdom’s horrific human rights record. Ahead of the Civil20 Summit on 6-10 October, we address this letter to all the NGOs and CSOs attending the Summit.


  • Saudi Arabia: Free Saudi activists now!

    Saudi Arabia should immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily detained activists, respect their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, and put an immediate end to its nationwide crackdown, a coalition of leading human rights organizations said today. A symbolic display of the magnitude of the authorities’ crackdown has been the enforced disappearance, alleged torture and the extrajudicial killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

    “The nationwide crackdown against civil society in Saudi Arabia continues unabated”, said Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. “Journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, and lawyers are facing arbitrary arrest, detention, smear campaigns labeling them as ‘foreign agents and terrorists’, and criminalisation for exercising their fundamental human rights”, added Sriskandarajah.

    As the authorities lifted the driving ban for women, they arrested dozens of women human rights defenders who have been campaigning against the ban and the male guardianship system. “These women face double the repression: they are not only targeted for speaking out against the State’s policies but also for defying patriarchy and demanding gender equality”, said Uma Mishra-Newbery, Director of Global Community for Women’s March Global.

    “Jamal Khashoggi’s arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killing in Istanbul demonstrates the extent to which the Saudi government is willing to go to suppress critical voices, from journalists to human rights defenders and women’s rights activists”, said Hussain Abdullah, director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain.

    The Saudi authorities have a long way to go to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders. This includes repealing all restrictive laws on press censorship, laws to target defenders who use the Internet for their activism, laws to restrict the establishment and operations of independent civil society organizations, and counter-terrorism laws used to imprison defenders.

    Yet, ahead of Saudi Arabia’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 5 November 2018, the Saudi authorities now have an important opportunity to demonstrate to the international community that they are committed to taking immediate steps to uphold their human rights obligations.

    “A first step in the right direction would be releasing all those detained in association with the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly”, said Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council advocate.

    “There has never been a more critical time for the international community to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for years of widespread and systematic human rights violations committed with impunity including gender-based discrimination against Saudis as well as violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen”, said Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights.

    Ahead of Saudi Arabia’s upcoming UPR, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), CVICUS and Women’s March Global launch an advocacy campaign to highlight the widespread and systematic crackdown against dissent in the country.

    Join us in calling for the release of Saudi women activists by signing this petition.

    Join us in tweeting to #FreeSaudiActivists and #StandWithSaudiFeminists

    Twitter accounts: @whrdmena, @WM_Global,  @GulfCentre4HR;@ISHRglobal;@CIVICUSalliance;@ADHRB


  • Saudi Arabia: Over 160 groups call for accountability following murder of journalist and widespread arrest of women’s rights defenders

    Francais | Espanol | العربية

    Saudi Arabia: Kingdom must be held to account for suppression of dissent, following murder of journalist and widespread arrest of women’s rights defenders

    Recognising the fundamental right to express our views, free from repression, we the undersigned civil society organisations call on the international community, including the United Nations, multilateral and regional institutions as well as democratic governments committed to the freedom of expression, to take immediate steps to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for grave human rights violations. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October is only one of many gross and systematic violations committed by the Saudi authorities inside and outside the country. As the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists approaches on 2 November, we strongly echo calls for an independent investigation into Khashoggi’s murder, in order to hold those responsible to account.

    This case, coupled with the rampant arrests of human rights defenders, including journalists, scholars and women’s rights activists; internal repression; the potential imposition of the death penalty on demonstrators; and the findings of the UN Group of Eminent Experts report which concluded that the Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, have committed acts that may amount to international crimes in Yemen, all demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s record of gross and systematic human rights violations. Therefore, our organisations further urge the UN General Assembly to suspend Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), in accordance with operative paragraph 8 of the General Assembly resolution 60/251.

    Saudi Arabia has never had a reputation for tolerance and respect for human rights, but there were hopes that as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman rolled out his economic plan (Vision 2030), and finally allowed women to drive, there would be a loosening of restrictions on women’s rights, and freedom of expression and assembly. However, prior to the driving ban being lifted in June, women human rights defenders received phone calls warning them to remain silent. The Saudi authorities then arrested dozens of women’s rights defenders (both female and male) who had been campaigning against the driving ban. The Saudi authorities’ crackdown against all forms of dissent has continued to this day.

    Khashoggi criticised the arrests of human rights defenders and the reform plans of the Crown Prince, and was living in self-imposed exile in the US. On 2 October 2018, Khashoggi went to the Consulate in Istanbul with his fiancée to complete some paperwork, but never came out. Turkish officials soon claimed there was evidence that he was murdered in the Consulate, but Saudi officials did not admit he had been murdered until more than two weeks later.

    It was not until two days later, on 20 October, that the Saudi public prosecution’s investigation released findings confirming that Khashoggi was deceased. Their reports suggested that he died after a “fist fight” in the Consulate, and that 18 Saudi nationals have been detained. King Salman also issued royal decrees terminating the jobs of high-level officials, including Saud Al-Qahtani, an advisor to the royal court, and Ahmed Assiri, deputy head of the General Intelligence Presidency. The public prosecution continues its investigation, but the body has not been found.

    Given the contradictory reports from Saudi authorities, it is essential that an independent international investigation is undertaken.

    On 18 October, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on Turkey to request that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres establish a UN investigation into the extrajudicial execution of Khashoggi.

    On 15 October 2018, David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Dr. Agnès Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, called for “an independent investigation that could produce credible findings and provide the basis for clear punitive actions, including the possible expulsion of diplomatic personnel, removal from UN bodies (such as the Human Rights Council), travel bans, economic consequences, reparations and the possibility of trials in third states.”

    We note that on 27 September, Saudi Arabia joined consensus at the UN HRC as it adopted a new resolution on the safety of journalists (A/HRC/Res/39/6). We note the calls in this resolution for “impartial, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction, to bring perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes to justice.” It also “[u]rges the immediate and unconditional release of journalists and media workers who have been arbitrarily arrested or arbitrarily detained.”

    Khashoggi had contributed to the Washington Post and Al-Watan newspaper, and was editor-in-chief of the short-lived Al-Arab News Channel in 2015. He left Saudi Arabia in 2017 as arrests of journalists, writers, human rights defenders and activists began to escalate. In his last column published in the Washington Post, he criticised the sentencing of journalist Saleh Al-Shehi to five years in prison in February 2018. Al-Shehi is one of more than 15 journalists and bloggers who have been arrested in Saudi Arabia since September 2017, bringing the total of those in prison to 29, according to RSF, while up to 100 human rights defenders and possibly thousands of activists are also in detention according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Saudi partners including ALQST. Many of those detained in the past year had publicly criticised reform plans related to Vision 2030, noting that women would not achieve economic equality merely by driving.

    Another recent target of the crackdown on dissent is prominent economist Essam Al-Zamel, an entrepreneur known for his writing about the need for economic reform. On 1 October 2018, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) held a secret session during which the Public Prosecution charged Al-Zamel with violating the Anti Cyber Crime Law by “mobilising his followers on social media.” Al-Zamel criticised Vision 2030 on social media, where he had one million followers. Al-Zamel was arrested on 12 September 2017 at the same time as many other rights defenders and reformists.

    The current unprecedented targeting of women human rights defenders started in January 2018 with the arrest of Noha Al-Balawi due to her online activism in support of social media campaigns for women’s rights such as (#Right2Drive) or against the male guardianship system (#IAmMyOwnGuardian). Even before that, on 10 November 2017, the SCC in Riyadh sentenced Naimah Al-Matrod to six years in jail for her online activism.

    The wave of arrests continued after the March session of the HRC and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) published its recommendations on Saudi Arabia. Loujain Al-Hathloul, was abducted in the Emirates and brought to Saudi Arabia against her will on 15 May 2018; followed by the arrest of Dr. Eman Al-Nafjan, founder and author of the Saudiwoman's Weblog, who had previously protested the driving ban; and Aziza Al-Yousef, a prominent campaigner for women’s rights.

    Four other women’s human rights defenders who were arrested in May 2018 include Dr. Aisha Al-Manae, Dr. Hessa Al-Sheikh and Dr. Madeha Al-Ajroush, who took part in the first women’s protest movement demanding the right to drive in 1990; and Walaa Al-Shubbar, a young activist well-known for her campaigning against the male guardianship system. They are all academics and professionals who supported women’s rights and provided assistance to survivors of gender-based violence. While they have since been released, all four women are believed to be still facing charges.

    On 6 June 2018, journalist, editor, TV producer and woman human rights defender Nouf Abdulaziz was arrested after a raid on her home. Following her arrest, Mayya Al-Zahrani published a letter from Abdulaziz, and was then arrested herself on 9 June 2018, for publishing the letter.

    On 27 June 2018, Hatoon Al-Fassi, a renowned scholar, and associate professor of women's history at King Saud University, was arrested. She has long been advocating for the right of women to participate in municipal elections and to drive, and was one of the first women to drive the day the ban was lifted on 24 June 2018.

    Twice in June, UN special procedures called for the release of women’s rights defenders. On 27 June 2018, nine independent UN experts stated, “In stark contrast with this celebrated moment of liberation for Saudi women, women's human rights defenders have been arrested and detained on a wide scale across the country, which is truly worrying and perhaps a better indication of the Government's approach to women's human rights.” They emphasised that women human rights defenders “face compounded stigma, not only because of their work as human rights defenders, but also because of discrimination on gender grounds.”

    Nevertheless, the arrests of women human rights defenders continued with Samar Badawi and Nassima Al-Sadah on 30 July 2018. They are being held in solitary confinement in a prison that is controlled by the Presidency of State Security, an apparatus established by order of King Salman on 20 July 2017. Badawi’s brother Raif Badawi is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for his online advocacy, and her former husband Waleed Abu Al-Khair, is serving a 15-year sentence. Abu Al-Khair, Abdullah Al-Hamid, and Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani (the latter two are founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association - ACPRA) were jointly awarded the Right Livelihood Award in September 2018. Yet all of them remain behind bars.

    Relatives of other human rights defenders have also been arrested. Amal Al-Harbi, the wife of prominent activist Fowzan Al-Harbi, was arrested by State Security on 30 July 2018 while on the seaside with her children in Jeddah. Her husband is another jailed member of ACPRA. Alarmingly, in October 2018, travel bans were imposed against the families of several women’s rights defenders, such as Aziza Al-Yousef, Loujain Al-Hathloul and Eman Al-Nafjan.

    In another alarming development, at a trial before the SCC on 6 August 2018, the Public Prosecutor called for the death penalty for Israa Al-Ghomgam who was arrested with her husband Mousa Al-Hashim on 6 December 2015 after they participated in peaceful protests in Al-Qatif. Al-Ghomgam was charged under Article 6 of the Cybercrime Act of 2007 in connection with social media activity, as well as other charges related to the protests. If sentenced to death, she would be the first woman facing the death penalty on charges related to her activism. The next hearing is scheduled for 28 October 2018.

    The SCC, which was set up to try terrorism cases in 2008, has mostly been used to prosecute human rights defenders and critics of the government in order to keep a tight rein on civil society.

    On 12 October 2018, UN experts again called for the release of all detained women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. They expressed particular concern about Al-Ghomgam’s trial before the SCC, saying, “Measures aimed at countering terrorism should never be used to suppress or curtail human rights work.” It is clear that the Saudi authorities have not acted on the concerns raised by the special procedures – this non-cooperation further brings their membership on the HRC into disrepute.

    Many of the human rights defenders arrested this year have been held in incommunicado detention with no access to families or lawyers. Some of them have been labelled traitors and subjected to smear campaigns in the state media, escalating the possibility they will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Rather than guaranteeing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders at a time of planned economic reform, the Saudi authorities have chosen to escalate their repression against any dissenting voices.

    Our organisations reiterate our calls to the international community to hold Saudi Arabia accountable and not allow impunity for human rights violations to prevail.

    We call on the international community, and in particular the UN, to:

    1. Take action to ensure there is an international, impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi;
    2. Ensure Saudi Arabia be held accountable for the murder of Khashoggi and for its systematic violations of human rights;
    3. Call a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the recent wave of arrests and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and other dissenting voices in Saudi Arabia;
    4. Take action at the UN General Assembly to suspend Saudi Arabia’s membership of the Human Rights Council; and
    5. Urge the government of Saudi Arabia to implement the below recommendations.

    We call on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

    1. Produce the body of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and invite independent international experts to oversee investigations into his murder; cooperate with all UN mechanisms; and ensure that those responsible for his death, including those who hold command responsibility, are brought to justice;
    2. Immediately quash the convictions of all human rights defenders, including women and men advocating for gender equality, and drop all charges against them;
    3. Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, writers, journalists and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia whose detention is a result of their peaceful and legitimate work in the promotion and protection of human rights including women’s rights;
    4. Institute a moratorium on the death penalty; including as punishment for crimes related to the exercise of rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly;
    5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and journalists in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities and public interest reporting without fear of reprisal;
    6. Immediately implement the recommendations made by the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen; and
    7. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and bring all national laws limiting the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association into compliance with international human rights standards.


    Access Now
    Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) - France
    Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) - Germany
    Al-Marsad - Syria
    ALQST for Human Rights
    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS) - Jordan
    Amman Forum for Human Rights
    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
    Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA
    ARTICLE 19
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
    Asociación Libre de Abogadas y Abogados (ALA)
    Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    Association malienne des droits de l’Homme (AMDH)
    Association mauritanienne des droits de l’Homme (AMDH)
    Association nigérienne pour la défense des droits de l’Homme (ANDDH)
    Association of Tunisian Women for Research on Development
    Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
    Awan Awareness and Capacity Development Organization
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law - Tajikistan
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
    Canadian Center for International Justice
    Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)
    Center for Civil Liberties - Ukraine
    Center for Prisoners’ Rights
    Center for the Protection of Human Rights “Kylym Shamy” - Kazakhstan
    Centre oecuménique des droits de l’Homme (CEDH) - Haïti
    Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos (EQUIDAD) - Perú
    Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH) - Guatemala
    Citizen Center for Press Freedom
    Citizens’ Watch - Russia
    Civil Society Institute (CSI) - Armenia
    Code Pink
    Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic
    Comité de acción jurídica (CAJ) - Argentina
    Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU) - Ecuador
    Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos - Dominican Republic
    Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) -Northern Ireland
    Committee to Protect Journalists
    Committee for Respect of Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia
    Damascus Center for Human Rights in Syria
    Danish PEN
    DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Center for Human Rights
    Dutch League for Human Rights (LvRM)
    Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center - Azerbaijan
    English PEN
    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR)
    FIDH within the framework of the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders
    Finnish League for Human Rights
    Freedom Now
    Front Line Defenders
    Fundación regional de asesoría en derechos humanos (INREDH) - Ecuador
    Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) - Uganda
    Groupe LOTUS (RDC)
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR)
    Human Rights Association (IHD) - Turkey
    Human Rights Center (HRCIDC) - Georgia
    Human Rights Center “Viasna” - Belarus
    Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
    Human Rights Concern (HRCE) - Eritrea
    Human Rights in China
    Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan”
    Human Rights Center Memorial
    Human Rights Sentinel
    Index on Censorship
    Initiative for Freedom of Expression (IFoX) - Turkey
    Institut Alternatives et Initiatives citoyennes pour la Gouvernance démocratique (I-AICGD) - DR Congo
    International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms (ICSRF) - Switzerland
    Internationale Liga für Menscherechte
    International Human Rights Organisation “Fiery Hearts Club” - Uzbekistan
    International Legal Initiative (ILI) - Kazakhstan
    International Media Support (IMS)
    International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
    International Press Institute
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Internet Law Reform and Dialogue (iLaw)
    Iraqi Association for the Defense of Journalists' Rights
    Iraqi Hope Association
    Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Justice for Iran
    Karapatan - Philippines
    Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
    Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture
    Latvian Human Rights Committee
    Lao Movement for Human Rights
    Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
    League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)
    Legal Clinic “Adilet” - Kyrgyzstan
    Ligue algérienne de défense des droits de l’Homme (LADDH)
    Ligue centrafricaine des droits de l’Homme
    Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) Belgium
    Ligue des Electeurs (LE) - DRC
    Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’Homme (LIDHO)
    Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains (LSDH)
    Ligue tchadienne des droits de l’Homme (LTDH)
    Maison des droits de l’Homme (MDHC) - Cameroon
    Maharat Foundation
    MARUAH - Singapore
    Middle East and North Africa Media Monitoring Observatory
    Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of People's Lawyers (IAPL)
    Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (MNDH) - Brasil
    Muslims for Progressive Values
    Mwatana Organization for Human Rights
    National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists
    No Peace Without Justice
    Norwegian PEN
    Open Azerbaijan Initiative
    Organisation marocaine des droits humains (OMDH)
    People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
    People’s Watch
    PEN America
    PEN Canada
    PEN International
    PEN Lebanon
    PEN Québec
    Promo-LEX - Moldova
    Public Foundation - Human Rights Center “Kylym Shamy” - Kyrgyzstan
    Rafto Foundation for Human Rights
    RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in War)
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    Right Livelihood Award Foundation
    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    Sahrawi Media Observatory to document human rights violations
    SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR)
    Scholars at Risk (SAR)
    Sham Center for Democratic Studies and Human Rights in Syria
    Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF) - Yemen
    Solicitors International Human Rights Group
    Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research
    Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
    Tanmiea - Iraq
    Tunisian Association to Defend Academic Values
    Tunisian Association to Defend Individual Rights
    Tunisian Association of Democratic Women
    Tunis Center for Press Freedom
    Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights
    Tunisian League to Defend Human Rights
    Tunisian Organization against Torture
    Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF)
    Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
    Vigdis Freedom Foundation
    Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
    Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition
    Women’s Center for Culture & Art - United Kingdom
    World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) within the framework of the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders
    Yemen Center for Human Rights
    Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)
    17Shubat For Human Rights


  • Saudi Arabia: Over 50 human rights groups call for immediate release of women’s rights defenders


    The following letter was sent to over 30 Ministers of Foreign Affairs of States calling on UN Member States to adopt a resolution at the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council calling explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders and establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights violations in the country.


  • Saudi Arabia: States should adopt a resolution at UNHRC to address human rights violations


    Your Excellency,

    We remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, in particular the recent mass executions of 37 men on 23 April, the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defenders including women human rights defenders and the ongoing impunity for serious human rights violations, including torture.


  • Saudi rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul spends 1000th day in prison

    Loujain1000 days in detention

    Today,  as Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul spends her 1000th day in prison, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Free Saudi Activists coalition call for her immediate and unconditional release. 


  • Statement: Countries of concern at the UN Human Rights Council

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive Dialogue on Countries of Concern

    CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the grave situation in Sudan, and we call once again on the Council to take immediate steps to address this crisis, at the very least by establishing a fact-finding mission to monitor, verify and report on the situation to prevent further bloodshed and ensure that the perpetrators of these atrocities are held to account.

    In Saudi Arabia, human rights defenders face continued unwarranted detention. A wave of further arrests in April targeted those supporting the women’s rights movement and detained activists.  Saudi Arabia is not above Human Rights Council scrutiny and we reiterate calls on the Council to establish a monitoring mechanism over human rights violations in the country and call explicitly for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders.

    In Guatemala, human rights defenders are being criminalized and harassed. Cases filed against Claudia Samoyoa Pineda and Jose Martinez Cabrera is illustrative of the authorities’ growing intolerance of independent dissent, including of those working on land and environmental defense. This is just one example of targeted reprisals levelled against civil society organisations and human rights defenders that have mobilised against a series of attacks on Guatemala's democratic institutional framework.

    Civic space in Afghanistan remains under serious threat. Violence against human rights defenders and journalists continues with impunity and state actors also have been implicated in violations against journalists. Women, civil society and victim's groups have been excluded from the peace processes, which threatens to undermine all hard-won gains. 

    Lastly, we are deeply concerned at the situation in the Philippines. Despite progress on a bill to protect human rights defenders, the situation on the ground remains dire. Dozens of activists have been killed since 2016 under the Duterte administration and the work of CSOs, media and human rights defenders have been severely undermined by smear campaigns by the government.

    We call on the Council’s continued attention to, and call for urgent action on, these issues of serious concern.


  • Why we are not engaging with the G20’s civil society process in 2020


    The annual G20 summit often seems like a talking shop for the world’s most powerful governments. The leaders of 19 of the largest national economies plus the European Union get together, shake hands in front of the cameras, and make vague agreements, many of which they don’t implement. The summits draw the attention of the world’s media, and – frequently – protesters from around the world who want to hold those governments to account.

    Less well known is the extensive cycle of preparatory meetings leading up to the G20 leaders’ summit. Despite the many limitations and challenges of the process, for many voices from outside government –especially trade unions, rights groups and civil society – these are rare opportunities to make policy recommendations directly to national authorities and to influence the global agenda on issues that affect billions of people. For the last few years, there has even been a dedicated stream of meetings for civil society within the G20, known as the Civil 20 (C20).

    In 2020, however, we as civil society organisations will be keeping our distance from the official C20 process, which will be hosted by and in Saudi Arabia.

    G20 host Saudi Arabia has tried to promote an image of itself as a modern country attractive for foreign investors. The government has recruited expensive Western PR advisorsand spent millions of dollars to polish its image and suppress criticism from international media. Meanwhile, at home the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regularly arrests and prosecutes human rights defenders, censors free speech, limits free movement, and tortures and mistreats detained journalists and activists. Vaguely worded counter-terror laws are used to silence government critics, including through the imposition of the death penalty. In October 2018, the world was shocked by the brutal murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Women face systematic discrimination in law and practice. In addition, women human rights defenders who dare defend the rights of women are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention.

    Instead of real reform, the Saudi government has been trying to whitewash its dire human rights record by holding major international events in the country. This includes the G20 and – through a government-authorized NGO – the C20. As leading civil society organisations present in most countries around the world (but notably not Saudi Arabia), we cannot participate in a process that seeks to give international legitimacy to a state that provides virtually no space for civil society, and where independent civil society voices are not tolerated.

    In June 2019, the C20 established a set of principles, including a basic structure and operating mechanisms, to ensure its sustainability and effectiveness. The C20 principles emphasize inclusion of a variety of civil society actors, from local to global; transparency of decision-making; freedom and independence from undue influence by any non-civil society actors; inclusiveness and diversity; and the guiding values of human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Most of these principles will be absent in 2020, and more alarmingly we are already seeing the Saudi G20 presidency undermining these principles.

    Virtually no domestic civil society actors will be able to participate in the upcoming C20 in Saudi Arabia, other than a token number of organisations working on issues deemed inoffensive by the Saudi government, since the Saudi authorities do not allow the existence of political parties, trade unions or independent human rights groups. Most progressive civil society activists are on trial or serving long prison sentences for speaking up, or have been forced into exile in order to avoid prison or worse. Returning to the country is not an option, as it will put them at risk. Without these independent and critical voices in the room, the credibility of the C20 is severely compromised.

    Foreign and international civil society actors would also face significant challenges in freely participating in a Saudi-organised C20 event.

    Existing laws and policies in Saudi Arabia not only directly affect the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, but also create a chilling effect that acts to silence certain categories of activists who, if they were to speak out, would be jeopardizing their own safety. Moreover, in November 2019, Saudi Arabia’s state security agency categorised feminism and homosexuality as crimes. While the announcement was rectified, Saudi Arabia’s leading women human rights defenders are still behind bars and prosecuted for their human rights work. These laws and practices contradict C20 principles on diversity, gender equality and the empowerment of women, and they would stifle freedom of expression in discussions on women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights, and LGBTI rights.

    This is compounded by a serious lack of press freedom in Saudi Arabia. Strict media controls, censorship and surveillance of social media, mean any discussions held at a Saudi-led C20 would never reach the wider Saudi population beyond a state-sanctioned narrative. Even if any such discussions were possible, without free media all meaningful discussions at the C20 would benefit only a limited audience. This is inconsistent with the C20’s guiding principles of inclusiveness, openness, transparency and participation.

    Previous G20 summits have seen protests by activists from the host state and elsewhere. Freedom of peaceful assembly is a right, but in a country where all gatherings, including peaceful demonstrations, are prohibited, there is no possibility that this fundamental right will be respected.

    The Saudi-led C20 process is lacking in many respects, most notably in guaranteeing the C20’s fundamental principles. Even this early in the 2020 C20 process we have observed a marked lack of transparency from the C20 hosts. The appointment of the Chairs of working groups and various committees was opaque and non-consultative, while arbitrary decisions have excluded experienced international groups. The C20 process led by the King Khalid Foundation, which is connected to the Saudi Royal Family, cannot be considered as transparent, inclusive and participatory, as required by the C20 Principles.

    At a time when the world is facing a wide range of challenges, independent voices are needed more than ever. A state that closes civic space until it is virtually non-existent cannot be trusted to guarantee the basic conditions for international civil society to exchange ideas and collaborate freely on any issue, let alone those issues it deems sensitive or offensive.

    While we will not participate in the C20 this year, we commit to work together to make sure those voices are heard in 2020.


  • Women’s rights defenders must be immediately and unconditionally released!


    Letter by civil society organisations calling for the release of Saudi women's rights defenders


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