ISHR and TIMEP submitted to CEDAW recommendations intended to bring Egypt in line with its constitutional and international legal obligations, and to address the root factors of violations against women.
The States voiced their deep regret for the “the continued detention of at least five women’s human rights defenders, arrested in 2018” and reiterated their calls for “the release of all political detainees”.
“The immediate and unconditional release of the women’s rights activists and human rights defenders would be a litmus test of the Saudi government’s political will to improve the human rights situation”, said Yahya Assiri, Director of ALQST for Human Rights and Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Programme Manager.
In March 2019, the States had called for the release of all those detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms including ten women human rights defenders. Five of them have been provisionally released but are still facing charges. Loujain Al-Hathloul, Nouf Abdelaziz, Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sadah, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, and Miyaa Al-Zahrani remain in detention.
During her oral update to the Council on 14 September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed her deep concern about the continued arbitrary detention of Saudi women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and urged their immediate release. Saudi WHRDs have been campaigning for women to be treated as equals to men, including having the right to drive a car and travel abroad.
The States also raised concerns over the use of counter-terrorism measures against those exercising their rights peacefully as well as violations against detainees including torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, denial of access to medical treatment and contact with their families.
In June 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions Dr. Agnes Callamard presented to the Council her investigation which found the State of Saudi Arabia responsible for the premeditated execution of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and concluded that “those who ordered the execution not only walk free but have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial”. The States reiterated today in the joint statement their calls for “transparency and holding all those responsible accountable”.
While the States also welcome some positive measures taken by Saudi Arabia regarding flogging, death penalty and women’s rights, 32 NGOs had highlighted in a joint letter how the measures fall short of genuine human rights improvements. On 25 September, ISHR delivered a joint statement at the Council, on behalf of the Free Saudi Activists Coalition urging the Council to continue its scrutiny and to establish a monitoring and reporting mechanism over the situation.
The States reiterated that Council members “must expect public scrutiny of their human rights record”. Saudi Arabia is running for Human Rights Council elections scheduled for October 2020. ISHR reiterates its calls on Saudi Arabia to implement recommendations jointly developed with partners including on: civic space and human rights defenders, male guardianship system, Yemen, death penalty, accountability for Jamal Khashoggi, migrant workers’ rights, and due process guarantees.
During the same debate today at the Council, the European Union also expressed concern over the continued detention of Saudi WHRDs including Loujain Al-Hathloul, and called for accountability for Jamal Khashoggi.
*Read here the joint statement on behalf of: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.
Photo: Free Saudi Activists Coalition
 Saudi Arabia published amendments on August 2nd 2019 to allow women to obtain passports and travel abroad without permission of their male guardians, grant women the right to register marriages, divorces, births and deaths, to obtain family records and benefit from new protections against employment discrimination. However, Saudi women still must obtain a male guardian’s approval to get married or be released from prison or shelters where they have sought protection from domestic abuse or violence. See more details: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch.
HRC48: Women defenders engaged in the defense of the right to land, territory and indigenous rights demand that the UN and the international community recognise their key role in protecting humanity and the environment.
Last week the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association presented his report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly urging states and private sector to respect the exercise of human rights of those mobilising peacefully to address the climate crisis.
Today, UN member States elected members to the UN's top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, for the 2022-2024 term. 18 candidates ran for 18 seats, and all were elected, leaving civil society disappointed in a process that can hardly be called an election.
ISHR joined Sudan Women Rights Action, Nora Center for Combating Sexual Violence and MENA WHRD Coalition in calling on the Human Rights Council to support Sudanese women human rights defenders in their struggle for democratic transition, gender equality, peace, and protection from violence.
Mozambique has accepted 236 of the 266 recommendations received. While this highlights a slight progress since their last Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the human rights situation in the country still needs large structural improvements.
During the adoption of the outcome of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Niger manifested its willingness to cooperate with human rights mechanisms by accepting almost all the recommendations. However, more efforts for an efficient implementation remain necessary.
Despite Sierra Leone's acceptance of recommendations aiming to improve civil society’s space, cases of reprisals against human rights defenders are still reported.
To commemorate the International Safe Abortion Day, ISHR joined 372 organisations as well as women human rights defenders working to prevent maternal deaths, including through ensuring safe abortions, to demand free, safe and accessible abortion for everyone, NOW!
The DRC has noticeably improved the protection of human rights in the Kasaï region but progress remains slow and action is still needed towards transitional justice and the protection of defenders in this region.
Defender Zhang Haitao's wife addressed the UN Human Rights Council on 20 September, after more than 1240 days without information about her husband's status. He is serving 19 years on 'national security'-related charges, punishing him for exercising freedom of speech.
Human rights organisations* urge the immediate and unconditional release of Egyptian human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer, who completes today two years in arbitrary detention.