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  • Saudi Arabia must improve women’s rights and abolish the male guardianship system 
  • Chechnya: Parliament calls on Russia to repeal the laws restricting NGOs’ freedom 
  • Zimbabwe must withdraw all military personnel deployed across the country 

MEPs deplore the arrests of human rights defenders and violent attacks on civil society in Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Zimbabwe.

Saudi Arabia must improve women’s rights

MEPs condemn the situation of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and express their concern over the government web services used by men to track women. By using these internet-based applications, male guardians can specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders and receive an SMS update when they travel.

Despite a reform agenda to transform the country economically and socially also through women’s empowerment, and the lifting of the driving ban for women inside the Kingdom, the Saudi political and social system remains discriminatory, effectively making women second-class citizens. MEPs note that male guardians still need to authorise women’s international travel, access to healthcare services, choice of residence and marriage. MEPs urge the Saudi government to immediately abolish the male guardianship system.

MEPs criticise the recently adopted law by which Saudi women can be notified by text message if they are divorced. They emphasise that this law does not address the fact that Saudi women can only obtain divorces in limited cases, such as with their husband’s consent or if he has harmed her.

They also ask for women’s rights activists and defenders Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Israa al-Ghomgham, her husband Mousa al-Hashim, and their four co-defendants Ahmed al-Matrood, Ali Ouwaisher, Khalid al-Ghanim and Mujtaba al-Muzain, as well as the Saudi blogger and Sakharov Prize laureate Raif Badawi, to be released.

MEPs call on the Saudi authorities to introduce an immediate moratorium on the death penalty, which is still used to punish non-violent offences, such as drug smuggling, treason, adultery and apostasy. They note that between 2014 and 2017, the average number of executions per year was at least 126.

The resolution was adopted by 517 votes in favour, 10 against, with 70 abstentions.

Chechnya must immediately release human rights defender Oyub Titiev

Chechnya has experienced a dramatic deterioration in the human rights situation over the last few years. MEPs urge its authorities and Russia to stop harrassing and persecuting its citizens, and to end the climate of impunity which deters victims from seeking justice for fear of retaliation.

The Parliament also calls on Russian authorities to repeal the laws severely restricting NGOs‘ ability to work independently and effectively. Under the 2012 law on “foreign agents”, Russia designated “Memorial” (2009 Sakharov Prize winner), the last remaining active human rights organisations in Chechnya, as a “foreign agent”. MEPs call for Memorial’s director Oyub Titiev’s immediate release. He is prosecuted on fabricated evidence of illegal acquisition and possession of drugs. The European Commission, European External Action Service and EU states are expected to closely monitor his trial which should take place by mid February 2019.

The resolution calls on international sports personalities and artists to refrain from participating in public events in Chechnya or those sponsored by its leadership.

The resolution was approved by a show of hands.

Zimbabwe must stop the systematic torture used by soldiers and police

The situation of human rights in Zimbabwe remains critical. Rising poverty and declining living standards are pushing the country to the brink. Between 14 and 18 January 2019, Zimbabwe witnessed a surge in demonstrations, following an 150% increase in fuel prices. Moreover, the outcome of the first presidential and parliamentary elections held in the country on July 2018 resulted in an outbreak of post electoral violence. MEPs condemn the excessive violence used by police to suppress the riots.

They denounce the fact that the soldiers and the police used systematic torture. During the protests, “more than 17 people were killed and hundreds were injured, while around a thousand people were arrested, including children between 9 and 16 years old”, the report say. Cases of rape and destruction of property were also reported.

MEPs urge the government of Zimbabwe to immediately withdraw all military personnel and the youth militia who have been deployed across the country terrorising residents and in clear violation of the Zimbabwean Constitution. They also call on the Zimbabwean authorities to “undertake a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including rape and sexual violence by security forces and bring those responsible to justice”.

The resolution was approved by a show of hands.