UK MPs request to visit detained female Saudi activists

Panel of cross-party MPs, lawyers writes open letter to Saudi ambassador following allegations of torture, sexual assault

A cross-party panel of British parliament members and lawyers has written an open letter to the Saudi Arabian ambassador in London asking permission to visit female activists detained in the Kingdom. In the letter to Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz on Wednesday, they expressed their concern for the imprisoned activists and requested permission to check on their wellbeing.

The group includes Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, who chairs the panel, Labour MP Dr. Paul Williams, who worked with refugees, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, the first MP of Palestinian heritage, Dr. Tim Moloney QC, a leading British lawyer, and Tayab Ali, a senior partner at ITN Solicitors representing a detained Saudi activist.

“You will be aware that there have been some serious allegations made about the treatment of Women Activist Detainees in Saudi Arabia,” Blunt said in the letter. “I have been asked by ITN solicitors, on behalf of a Saudi Arabian citizen (the Client), to convene together an independent panel of UK parliamentarians to review the conditions of these Women Activist Detainees (the Detainees) currently in detention in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

“I am therefore writing to you as Chair of the Detention Review Panel for Detained Women Activists who have been detained and/or imprisoned by the authorities in Saudi Arabia. We would like your assistance in arranging a visit to Saudi Arabia to visit and speak with these Detainees.”

The letter also said the panel will conduct an independent review of the conditions of the detained women activists and will inquire into the conditions in which they are living and how they are being treated. Once the review has been conducted, its findings will be released in a report.
Among the detainees the panel hopes to visit are those named in Human Rights Watch’s November 2018 report, including Loujain al‐Hathloul, Aziza al‐Yousef, Eman al‐Nafjan, Nouf Abdelaziz, Mayaa al‐Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Nassima al‐Saada and Hatoon al‐Fassi, all of whom are women’s rights activists.

The panel highlighted their concern over allegations made about the treatment of the activists and that such allegations that have been documented by human rights organizations “appear to be credible, but we acknowledge that the Saudi Arabian government says that the allegations are unfounded”.

They include torture with electric shocks, being tied down to a bed and whipping with a rope, sexual harassment, threats of rape and assault, threats of the death penalty or life imprisonment for “treason” and denial of access to family members or independent lawyers.

“The allegations made and recorded by these human rights advocates are extremely damaging to the credibility of the progressive reforms announced recently by the Saudi Arabian government,” said the letter.
“We hope that following our review, we will be able to assist Saudi Arabia in regaining confidence from the international community that its commitment to progressive reform and the protection of the rights of peaceful pro‐reform activists is both credible and sincere.”

Source: Anadolu  Agency