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Thursday, 13 December 2007 - Strasbourg
Women's rights in Saudi Arabia

European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2007 on women's rights in Saudi Arabia

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the ratification by Saudi Arabia of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on 7 September 2000,

–   having regard to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was ratified by Saudi Arabia on 23 September 1997,

–   having regard to the fact that Saudi Arabia has been a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child since 26 January 1996,

–   having regard to the fact that Saudi Arabia was elected to a seat on the new UN Human Rights Council in May 2006,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Saudi Arabia, of 18 January 1996(1) and 10 March 2005(2),

–   having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas women in Saudi Arabia continue to face many forms of discrimination in private and in public life, are frequently victims of sexual violence and often face enormous obstacles in the criminal justice system,

B.   whereas in October 2006 a 19-year-old woman, known as 'the Qatif Girl', was sentenced to 90 lashes following an incident in which she was alone in a car talking with a man who was not a close relative when she was attacked and gang-raped,

C.   deeply concerned by the fact that the General Court of Qatif (Saudi Arabia) reviewed the sentence in November 2007 and condemned her to six months in prison and 200 lashes,

D.   whereas an official at the General Court of Qatif has declared that the Court increased the woman's sentence, following direction from the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, because of her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media,

E.   whereas the victim's lawyer, Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, has been banned from the courtroom and from any future representation of his client after attempts to take legal action against the Ministry of Justice for failing to provide him with a copy of the verdict concerning his client so that he could prepare an appeal; whereas Mr Al-Lahem now faces a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Justice, where sanctions can include suspension for three years and disbarment;

F.   whereas Mr Al-Lahem also defended the case of the couple Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani, parents of two children, who were forcibly divorced in July 2007 on the request of the wife's brother, based on the argument that Fatima's tribal lineage was superior to that of her husband; whereas both were incarcerated for days, indeed months, together with their children for refusing to accept the divorce, and whereas since then Fatima has been obliged to live in a shelter because she refuses to return to her family,

G.   particularly concerned that the criminalisation of any close contact between unmarried individuals of the opposite sex in Saudi Arabia severely impedes the ability of rape victims to seek justice, and that a court may view a woman's charge of rape as an admission of extramarital sexual relations unless she can prove, by strict evidence, that this contact was non-consensual,

H.   whereas approximately two million women migrant workers are employed as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, who are frequently subjected to abuses by state authorities and private employers, including physical and psychological ill-treatment and non-payment of salaries, detention without charge or trial and even capital punishment after unfair law proceedings,

I.   drawing particular attention to the cases of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker who was sentenced to capital punishment in June 2007 for the death of an infant in her custody when she was only 17 years old, and of the Indonesian domestic workers Siti Tarwiyah Slamet and Susmiyati Abdul Fulan, who were beaten to death by their employing family in August 2007 while two others were critically wounded,

J.   noting that States Parties to international human rights conventions (such as the CEDAW) have an obligation to ensure the equal rights of men and women,

1.  Insists that the Saudi Arabian Government take further steps aimed at lifting restrictions on women's rights, including their freedom of movement, on the driving prohibition, on their employment opportunities, on their legal personality and on their representation in judicial processes, eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in private and public life and promote their participation in the economic, social and political spheres;

2.  Deplores the abovementioned decision taken by the General Court of Qatif to punish the rape victim; calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to quash the sentence and drop all charges against the victim of the rape;

3.  Notes that, on 3 October 2007, King Abdullah announced a judicial reform, promising the setting-up of new specialised courts and improved training for judges and lawyers; recalls that, in May 2007, it was reported that King Abdullah had ordered that a new court be established which would specialise in hearing domestic violence cases;

4.  Considers that a campaign to promote awareness regarding violence against women in Saudi Arabia, especially domestic violence, would be a most welcome initiative, which should be introduced as a matter of urgency;

5.  Urges the authorities to revise and enforce national labour laws in order to provide the same protection for domestic workers as exists for workers of other branches and to ensure prosecution of employers responsible for sexual or physical abuse, and labour rights abuses that violate existing national laws;

6.  Calls on the Government of Saudi Arabia to review all cases of child offenders who have been condemned to death, to suspend the death sentence for child offenders and to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment;

7.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to raise these issues at the next Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting between the EU and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf;

8.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the UN General-Secretary, the Saudi Arabian Government, the Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary-General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.

(1) OJ C 32, 5.2.1996, p. 98.
(2) OJ C 320 E, 15.12.2005, p. 281.

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