HRW: After Khashoggi, Saudi denials of torturing female activists 'not good enough'
AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty
Human Rights Watch urged Saudi Arabia to immediately allow independent international monitors access to detained Saudi women’s rights advocates to ensure their safety and well-being after reports of torture and sexual assault, the NGO said Friday.
HRW claimed Riyadh's repeated denials of torture and mistreatment of at least three detained female activists could not be trusted following the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"Saudi Arabia's consistent lies about senior officials' role in Jamal Khashoggi's murder mean that the government's denials that it tortured these women activists are not nearly good enough," HRW's deputy Middle East director, Michael Page said.
Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian columnist who lived in self-imposed exile in the United States, was killed inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in early October.
Mounting pressure has weighed on Riyadh and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who Turkish officials- and reportedly the CIA- concluded gave the orders.
The New York-based NGO alleges that following the Saudi denial of mistreating female detainees, they received a report from an informed source indicating that authorities had tortured a fourth woman activist, who also indicated that the torture may be ongoing.
"Unless independent monitors are able to confirm the women activists' well-being, there is every reason to believe that the Saudi authorities have treated them with unspeakable cruelty," Page said.
The Saudi kingdom's crackdown on women's rights activists began weeks prior to the highly-anticipated lifting of the driving ban on June 24, with more than a dozen activists arrested.
Interest in the rights campaigners heightened after Canada called for their "immediate release", sparking a diplomatic row that saw Riyadh expel the Canadian ambassador in early August and impose a raft of other sanctions.
HRW accused Saudi Arabia of carrying out a smear campaign against the detainees by government-aligned media outlets, branding them as "traitors."
According to the watchdog, "the public media campaign against the women contravened Saudi Arabia’s longstanding policy of not publishing names of criminal suspects in pre-trial detention."
"At the same time, pro-government media have not identified the people arrested for their alleged involvement in Khashoggi’s murder."
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Y haven’t they identified them?