In April, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women issued a report on her visit to Saudi Arabia in 2008. It noted modest reforms, but concluded that the high level of discrimination against women compromised their rights and dignity. It found too that various factors, including women's lack of autonomy and economic independence, practices surrounding divorce and child custody, the absence of a law criminalizing violence against women, and inconsistencies in law enforcement and the administration of justice, prevented many women from escaping abusive environments. It further noted that violence against female domestic workers was not sufficiently recognized by the state.
The media highlighted several cases of violence against women.
- In February, a 23-year-old unmarried woman who was raped by five men after she accepted a lift, was sentenced by the District Court in Jeddah to one year in prison and 100 lashes for fornication outside marriage and trying to abort the resultant foetus. It was not clear what action was taken against her alleged rapists.
- In July, a man shot dead his two sisters after the religious police arrested the women for associating with men not related to them. The murders were carried out in front of the father; he "pardoned" his son on the grounds that he had been defending the family's honour and there were contradictory reports as to whether he was brought to justice.
After negative publicity about the consequences for women of early marriage, there were moves by official bodies to address the issue.
Freedom of religion
Shi'a Muslims and at least one Christian were targeted for their beliefs. Eighteen Isma'ili Shi'a Muslims, 17 of whom had been serving 10-year prison sentences since 2000, were released. Most were prisoners of conscience.
- In January, Hamoud Saleh al-Amri was arrested after announcing on his blog that he had converted from Islam to Christianity. He was released in late March on condition that he did not travel abroad or appear in the media.
- At least 10 Shi'a Muslims, including six boys aged between 14 and 16, were arrested in March in Eastern Province and detained incommunicado in connection with a demonstration on 27 February against arrests of Shi'a visitors to the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in Madina. Several of the boys were released within a few weeks but it was not clear what happened to the others.
- In March, security forces were reported to have arrested several Shi'a Muslims in the city of al- 'Awamiya for protesting against an order for the arrest of a leading Shi'a cleric and imam for criticizing attacks on Shi'a pilgrims and alleged discrimination against the Shi'a community.
Employers and state officials abused the rights of migrant workers with impunity. Domestic workers, particularly women, were made to work up to 18 hours a day and some were subjected to sexual or other abuse.
About 500 migrant workers and others detained in Riyadh's al-Shumaisi deportation centre went on hunger strike in September to protest against their prolonged detention and overcrowded and filthy conditions. Some had valid passports and airline tickets to leave Saudi Arabia, but they were not permitted to challenge their detention and were held for up to seven months before being deported. Several were reported to have died in detention.
- Mohammed Saquib, an Indian national who had fled from his employer, died in al-Shumaisi deportation centre on 30 August, apparently from tuberculosis and lack of adequate medical treatment.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The authorities continued to deny entry to some refugees and asylum-seekers. From August, they closed the southern border with Yemen in order to prevent the entry of people fleeing the conflict in Yemen's Sa'da region.