Saudi Arabia: Writer & woman human rights defender Nassima Al-Sadah awaits appeal trial of 5-year prison sentence


Writer and woman human rights defender Nassima Al-Sadah remains in prison in Saudi Arabia waiting for a court to hear her appeal against her prison sentence. There is no information when this hearing will take place.

On 25 November 2020, the Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced Al-Sadah to five years in prison, with the suspension of the last two, and a five-year travel ban after the end of her sentence.

During her detention and investigation, she was not allowed to have a lawyer. Her trial lacked minimum international standards for fair trial and due process. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the charges against her were clearly fabricated as an excuse to end her human rights activities and violate her rights to freedom of expression and opinion.

On 02 June 2020, seven United Nations experts wrote to Saudi Arabia expressing concern for Al-Sadah, among other women human rights defenders being detained for their human rights activities, whose trials had been unfair. They noted that she was charged under article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

The charges directed against her related to her writings and publishing her views and articles on various website including social media networks, in addition to defending the rights of women in Saudi Arabia such as her involvement in the Women’s Right to Drive Campaign. Al-Sadah is a writer and a co-founding member of Al-Adalah Center for Human Rights, which was denied a permit to work for human rights. 

Al-Sadah has been detained since her arrest on 30 July 2018 in Al-Mabahith Prison at the General Intelligence in Al-Dammam city. It is under the control of the State Security Presidency.

She was placed in solitary confinement after her arrest for four months in 2018. In early February 2019 she was returned again to solitary confinement for almost one year. Prolonged solitary confinement is considered to be a form of torture.

Two other women human rights defenders have been released from prison in Saudi Arabia this year. On 10 February 2021, Loujain Al-Hathloul was released after 1001 days in prison since her arrest in May 2018. She was sentenced in December to five years and eight months for her human rights activities, but freed upon completion of two thirds of her sentence. Nouf Abdulaziz was also freed earlier this year.

GCHR calls on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally overturn the sentence against Nassima Al-Sadah, drop all charges and free her immediately;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, writers, journalists and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia whose detention is a result of their peaceful and legitimate work in the promotion and protection of human rights including women’s rights;
  3. Refrain from using solitary confinement as a punishment for women human rights defenders; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities and advocate for women’s rights without fear of reprisal.