British Lawmakers: Saudi Treatment of Imprisoned Women Activists May Amount to Torture

A new report released Monday by the British Parliament’s Detention Review Panel concluded that the treatment of women activists detained in Saudi Arabia is “cruel, inhuman, and degrading,” and may amount to torture. At least eight female activists, jailed after campaigning for the right to drive, are being held in Saudi prisons where human-rights groups say they are facing beatings, electric shocks, sexual assaults, and threats of rape by their government wardens. The highest-profile detainee, Loujain al-Hathloul—a 29-year-old activist who has been arrested several times for campaigning for women’s driving rights in Saudi Arabia—has been linked as a friend to Duchess of Sussex Megan Markle. The two participated in a 2017 Vanity Fair photo shoot in support of One Young World, a U.K.-based not-for-profit organization for young leaders. The report, published by a cross-party panel, called for the immediate release of the women. The women were arrested shortly before the Saudi government ended the ban on women driving last summer.

The parliament report warned that responsibility for the alleged torture could fall on Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince. MBS already faces international accusations that he ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. Saudi Arabia denies that it was involved or aware of the murder.