Saudi Arabia: Five-year sentence upheld against women’s rights defender Nassima Al-Sadah


Reliable reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that the Court of Appeal in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has upheld the verdict issued against woman human rights defender Nassima Al-Sadah, which includes a five-year prison sentence. There is no further recourse to appeal the case. According to the ruling, Al-Sadah should be released by the end of June 2021, unless she is released earlier during Ramadan when prisoners are often released under a Royal pardon.

While other women’s rights defenders have been freed, Al-Sadah remains in prison in Al-Mabahith Prison at the General Intelligence in Al-Dammam city, where she has been detained since her arrest on 30 July 2018. She was held in solitary confinement for four months following her arrest, and she was returned again to solitary confinement for almost one year in 2019. 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. On 02 June 2020, seven United Nations experts wrote to Saudi Arabia expressing concern for Al-Sadah, among other women human rights defenders detained for their human rights activities, whose trials were unfair.

Al-Sadah was charged under article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law for publishing her views and articles on various website including social media, 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. 

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;
  4. Lift the travel bans imposed on those released from prison and restrictions on their freedom of expression; and
  5. 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.