‘Catastrophe’

Saudi Arabia is torturing detained women’s rights activists, British panel concludes

'The torture, in particular allegations of sexual harassment and threats of rape, are inexcusable,' says British MP Layla Moran. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

An investigation led by a cross-panel of British MPs has found that Saudi Arabia is torturing women’s rights activists imprisoned last spring in a purge held shortly before the country lifted its ban on women driving cars. The panel’s report said that at least eight of the imprisoned activists had endured cruel and inhumane treatment — including solitary confinement, assault, sexual harassment, and sleep deprivation. Many of the women, the report added, were likely to suffer long-term health consequences unless granted emergency access to medical assistance.

“When I heard of the arrests, I was, like many people, shocked that it had happened at all,” said panel member MP Layla Moran. “The torture, in particular allegations of sexual harassment and threats of rape, are inexcusable.”

“Denied proper access to medical care, legal advice or visits from their families, their solitary confinement and mistreatment are severe enough to meet the international definition of torture,” added fellow panelist MP Crispin Blunt. “Saudi Arabia stands on the brink. It is not too late to alter course and avert the spiral downwards to catastrophe that the detention of these activists represents.”

More than a dozen women’s rights activists were imprisoned during a crackdown last May — many of them prominent campaigners for women’s right to drive. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have previously alleged that all the imprisoned activists were denied access to lawyers, and that at least three were tortured and sexually assaulted. Saudi Arabia has denied allegations that the women are being tortured, and has publicly justified the detentions by claiming the activists were ‘traitors’ being paid to destabilize the country by foreign governments.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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