Najwa Al-Hamid: Three years of arbitrary detention for criticising unemployment rate

Activist Najwa Al-Hamid was brutally arrested from her family house on May 16, 2021, after her books and electronic devices were seized by a Saudi security team raiding her home. Her family was not notified of the reason for the arrest at the time, but it was eventually revealed that her arrest came over her tweets criticising the unemployment rate.

After a string of humiliating transfers between various detention facilities, Najwa Al-Hamid is currently being held at Al-Tarfiyya Prison in Al-Qassim. There, she endured psychological abuse and threats during the investigations that were conducted without the presence of a lawyer, rendering them illegal and nullifying any testimony that was provided during those sessions.

Al-Hamid was arrested not only for dealing with suspicious parties and following opponents’ accounts on Twitter, but also for tweets she posted under two hashtags: one about unemployment and the other about human rights and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia. These charges were brought against her by the Public Prosecution.

Saudi prisons from the inside

The worst treatment Najwa Al-Hamid endured was when she was made to appear on Al-Ekhbariya channel more than a year after her arrest as part of a report about the “quality of life” inside Saudi prisons. This was done in an effort to present a positive picture of the regime and detention facilities in the Kingdom after it became clear from numerous reports and testimonies that both male and female detainees endure torture, verbal and physical abuse, and are coerced into making false confessions.

Remarkably, the Saudi authorities initiated a widespread campaign of arrests in May 2021 against dozens of young individuals who were active on social media platforms as a result of their nonviolent exercise of their right to free speech. Those individuals included Abdul Rahman Al Sheikh, Asmaa Al Subaie, Lina Al Sharif, Yasmine Al-Ghafili, and Rina Abdel Aziz.

In this regard, Together for Justice affirms that, as stated in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” detaining individuals on the grounds that they have exercised their right to freedom of expression is a clear violation of human rights and a breach of international agreements and charters. This right includes the freedom to express one’s thoughts without hindrance and the ability to search for, receive, and disseminate knowledge via any medium and across any boundaries.”

In addition, Together for Justice demands that the Saudi government end its campaigns of extrajudicial arrests and summonses, free all prisoners facing charges pertaining to their right to free speech, and cease prosecuting and criminalizing peaceful protests.

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