All-party group and lawyers concerned for eight women allegedly mistreated in Saudi Arabia prison
Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
A cross-party group of British parliamentarians and international lawyers is requesting the right to visit eight female activists detained in Saudi Arabia, following allegations that they have been subjected to ill treatment, including torture.
The lawmakers and advocates, who have convened a detention review panel, intend to produce a detailed document on their findings, following claims that the activists, some of whom were instrumental in securing women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, have been maltreated in Dhahban prison and denied access to lawyers or relatives.
The all-party panel includes the Conservative former chair of the foreign affairs select committee Crispin Blunt, the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, and Paul Williams, a Labour member of the health and social care select committee.
All eight women have been subjected to abuse, including threats of rape, electric shocks and beatings, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Speaking before the panel formally handed its request for visiting rights to Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Blunt said: “There are credible concerns that the conditions in which the Saudi women activists are being detained may have fallen significantly short of both international and Saudi Arabia’s own standards.
“We make this request to the Saudi authorities so that we can assess for ourselves the conditions in which the Saudi women activists have been and are being detained today.
“No person should be subjected to the type of treatment that has allegedly been inflicted upon these women activists while in detention. The implications of activists being detained and tortured for exercising their freedom of speech and conducting peaceful campaigns is concerning for all individuals seeking to exercise their human rights in Saudi Arabia.”
Blunt said he was hopeful the Saudi authorities might cooperate and thereby allow the panel to report an improving situation to human rights activists.
The panel includes lawmakers from ITN Solicitors, on behalf of the firm’s client, who is a Saudi citizen wishing to retain their anonymity.
Tayib Ali, a partner at ITN, said: “The detention and torture of Saudi women activists between May and August 2018, the majority of whom had campaigned for the right to drive, undermines Saudi Arabia’s progress and runs contrary to its obligations under international law.
“Serious allegations have been made regarding the treatment of these women in detention, including allegations of torture, death threats and denial of access to legal advice. The women have also allegedly been denied access to their families, and their families are deeply concerned about the conditions in which they are being held.”