Several human rights activists in Saudi Arabia have been tortured, sexually harassed and held in prison for months without charges, according to two prominent international rights groups.
The activists, including multiple women, have been “repeatedly tortured by electrocution and flogging,” according to Amnesty International on Wednesday. At least one woman said she’s been sexually harassed by masked prison interrogators.
The human rights defenders were “unable to walk or stand properly, had uncontrolled shaking of the hands, and marks on the body,” according to Amnesty International, and one prisoner has attempted to take her own life.
The Saudi prison guards have been “administering electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs,” and forcibly “hugging and kissing” at least three of the female prisoners, according to a separate report from Human Rights Watch on Tuesday.
The Saudi government said the torture claims aren’t true in a statement to CNN.
The activists have been held in Saudi Arabia’s Dhahban Prison since May — one month before the Saudi government started issuing driver licenses to women, giving the Saudi royal family international acclaim for liberalizing its suffocating treatment of women. That acclaim has since evaporated following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.
“Only a few weeks after the ruthless killing of Jamal Khashoggi, these shocking reports of torture, sexual harassment and other forms of ill-treatment, if verified, expose further outrageous human rights violations by the Saudi authorities” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, said in a statement.
She added: “Saudi authorities are directly responsible for the wellbeing of these women and men in detention. Not only have they been deprived them of their liberty for months now, simply for peacefully expressing their views, they are also subjecting them to horrendous physical suffering.”
Some of the prisoners have been tortured into “confessions” — which have been routinely used to bring charges, including the death penalty, according to Amnesty International. This is increasingly an issue, with nonviolent Shia Muslim protestors currently facing the death penalty for criticizing the Sunni Muslim leadership of the country.