The undersigned human rights organisations call on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Lina Al-Sharif, who has been arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia for over a year as a result of her social media activism. On 11 May 2022, Dr. Al-Sharif marked her 34th birthday in Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Al-Sharif is a medical doctor in Riyadh. In late May 2021, officials from the Saudi Presidency of State Security raided Al-Sharif’s family home in Riyadh, arrested her and forcibly disappeared her for two months, until 26 July 2021, eventually holding her in Al-Ha’ir prison. Prior to her arrest, Dr. Al-Sharif was active on social media, discussing Saudi politics and advocating for human rights in Saudi Arabia, including women’s rights, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom for prisoners of conscience.
On 9 July 2021, MENA Rights Group sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID), which sent a communication to the Saudi authorities, prompting them to reveal her location. On 21 September 2021, the Saudi authorities responded to the UN WGEID’s request for clarification. In response to Dr. Al-Sharif practising her right to free speech, the Saudi authorities claimed that she contravened Saudi laws, and was detained in accordance with Articles 2 and 19 of the Law on Combatting Terrorism Crimes and its Financing. However, the government provided no further information to the UN WGEID on any charges being brought against her, and her case remains under investigation.
As with many other international human rights treaties, Saudi Arabia has not ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and systematically practises enforced disappearance against people exercising their right to free speech. Additionally, the country systematically fails to respect the rights to due process and does not guarantee free and fair trials, often holding people at length without charge or in pretrial detention. Al-Sharif’s case is emblematic of these patterns of serious rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
We are deeply concerned that Dr. Al-Sharif has been held in prolonged pre-trial detention without charges brought against her. Moreover, her right to due process has not been respected and she is not provided with legal representation. We are also greatly concerned for her psychological and physical well-being in Al-Ha’ir prison, where she has been denied adequate medical care. No independent observers are able to visit her to verify the conditions of her detention.
Hundreds of individuals have signed a petition calling for Dr. Al-Sharif’s immediate and unconditional release. We urge the Saudi authorities to heed the call to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Al-Sharif and all those imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for exercising their right to freedom of expression, including online activists and human rights defenders.
- ALQST for Human Rights
- Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
- Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Democracy for the Arab World now (DAWN)
- European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
- European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR)
- FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
- Freedom Initiative
- Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
- Human Rights Sentinel
- International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
- MENA Rights Group
- PEN America
- PEN Canada
- Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
- The Regional Coalition for WHRDs in MENA (WHRD MENA Coalition)
- World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders