Activists held in Saudi Arabia tortured, sexually harassed, say rights activists

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia on Tuesday of subjecting several activists including some female human rights defenders detained since May to torture and sexual harassment, allegations denied by a Saudi official.

Over a dozen women’s rights activists have been arrested since May, most of whom had campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system, though some have since been freed.

A group of UN experts last month called for the immediate release of six female human rights defenders it said were still being held incommunicado in the kingdom.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s judiciary system does not condone, promote or allow the use of torture,” a Saudi official told Reuters.

“Anyone, whether male or female, being investigated is going through the standard judiciary process led by the public prosecution while being held for questioning, which does not in any way rely on torture either physical, sexual or psychological.”

The May arrests followed an earlier crackdown on clerics, intellectuals, and activists in September 2017 in an apparent bid to silence potential opponents of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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